handle this volume
The University of Connecticut
Digitized by the Internet Archive
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Reprinted from History of Connecticut with the permission of
the States History Company, Inc.
By Edward H. Jenkins
Reprinted from History of Connecticut with permission of the States
Histo'-y Company, Inc.
"! / /
THIS paper is rather a sketch of the course of Con-
necticut agriculture than a complete history of it.
A history should cover the economic, political and
social relations which went with and greatly affected its
practice and its prosperity. But such a history would
of itself be a volume and not, like this, a single paper
among many others relating to the State.
However, great the temptation to discuss the broader
aspects mentioned, it has been necessary therefore to con-
fine the work simply to the story of the development of
the art of farming, with only the barest reference to the
economic and political conditions of its environment.
To set forth the effect on agriculture of the expansion
of manufacturing, the embargo and non-intercourse acts,
the opening of the west, the development of transporta-
tion and the six wars cannot be discussed here.
Yet they all deeply affected the course of agriculture.
They were like the buffetings of heavy waves, with agri-
culture now on the peak and then in the trough of the
sea, constantly conning the helm and trimming its sails
to avoid shipwreck. Of course this experience is not
peculiar to farming; all kinds of business are affected in
the same way. But these great disturbances bore with a
special severity on the farmer because of his inexperience
in transacting business. For more than a century and a
half farming was not a commercial business, but a do-
mestic affair of each house-holder, chiefly confined to pro-
viding food and clothing for his own family.
Business acumen and the methods of trading have to
be learned by long experience and they are a compara-
tively recent acquisition of the farmer.
290 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
It is not so long since the three courses open to young
men were "the professions, business and farming." At
present farming should really be a profession and a busi-
ness in order to be a fairly successful "calling."
No writing or legend gives the history of agriculture
in New England before the coming of tthe white man.
But on a somewhat extensive scale a simple kind of agri-
culture was certainly practiced by the Indian dwellers
here long before the seventeenth century.
Almost its only relics are the few crops which they
raised, of which maize was their staple and their priceless
bequest to their successors, a crop which they cultivated
extensively and stored for winter use.
This stored corn was all that stood between the first
settlers and great scarcity of food if not of actual starva-
tion and in the earlier days of the settlement was occasion-
ally bought of the Indians to relieve a time of scarcity.
It has been one our staple crops from Colonial days to
the present and is now grown in larger quantity in the
United States than any other.
Maize or Indian corn had its origin in America but has
been changed by "domestication" so that it bears no close
resemblance to any native species now known and has
been developed out of all fitness to survive in a wild state.
This was probably a work of centuries by people who
have left no other record of this work in plant breeding
than the domesticated plants which they have handed
down to us.
It is a development for which we are indebted probably
to some ancient civilization in Central or South America,.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 291
a development vastly more valuable than any of those of
a modern "plant wizard."
Of particular interest is the Maya civilization de-
veloped in Yucatan, of which the earliest established date
is 113 B. C, and the time of greatest development from
455-597 A. D. The Mayas reached a high state of cul-
ture as is shown by their monuments and inscriptions
which have lately been studied and partly deciphered.
They planted corn, beans and pumpkins, taking ad-
\ antage of the wet and dry seasons to harvest two crops
annually. Among their records are pictures of the maize-
god, planting corn, represented frequently as a youth
with a leafy headdress, possibly meant to represent an
opening ear of corn. This deity appears to be at the mercy
of the evil deities when not protected by the good (59, p.
94). Other pictures show attacks by worms and birds,
suggesting that the pests are as old as the plant. The zo-
diac sign, Virgo, the Virgin, is represented in Peruvian,
Mexican and Maya sculpture as the Maize Mother.
Roger Williams (10) writes of the Indian tradition as
to the source from which corn and beans came, ''These
birds," crows, ''although they doe the corne some hurt,
yet scarce one native amongst an hundred wil kil them,
because they have a tradition, that the Crow brought
them at first an Indian Graine of Corne in one Eare and
an Indian or French Beane in another, from the great
god Cantantowit's field in the Southwest from whence
they hold came all their Corne and Beans." The last
clause of this tradition is probably correct.
Our flint, dent and sweet (45) types, the very early
and the tall, later maturing sorts of corn were probably
all grown by the aborigines before the settlement by white
men. In pre-Columbian days one or more varieties were
292 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
grown all the way from the St. Lawrence on the north to
the Rio de la Plata on the south.
Pumpkins, squashes, beans and peas were also grown
by the Indians, all but the last probably indigenous to this
"Peas" were grown by the Indians, according to the
annalists, but the Canada pea and the field pea are old
world plants. Possibly a Lathyrus, vetchling, or some
small rounded bean is what is referred to.
Before the coming of the white man there was a plenty
of land in Connecticut well enough cleared for growing
what crops were needed. Besides using the tidal marshes
and the alluvial lowlands, the aborigines had also long
practiced burning portions of the woodland to make
easier the taking of wild game, deer and turkeys. This
cleared the forest of underbrush and young trees. Larger
trees, (33) were girdled by the Indians to make open
spaces where their crops could be planted, leaving them
ready for further improvement (24, Vol. I).
The Narragansetts' land in Rhode Island was cleared
of wood for eight or ten miles from the seashore and
planted to corn (76. Vol. I).
There is abundant evidence of large clearings else-
Says Roger Williams, (10) "When a field is to be
broken up, they have a very loving, sociable, speedy way
to despatch it ; all the neighbors, men and women, forty,
fifty, a hundred, etc. joyne, and come in to help freely."
The field was not wholly tilled but corn was planted in
hills 12 to 20 inches in diameter and the soil of these
hills was all that was cultivated. The hills were used
over and over in successive years and they have persisted
in some places until recent times. (10). Near the sea, at
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 293
least, fish, (menhaden) were exclusively used as a ferti-
The implements of the Indians were very crude. Iron
was unknown. Stone hoes and perhaps spades have been
found. Bones, shells and wood were also used; yet it is
said of their cultivation (78), "Wherein they exceede our
English husbandmen, keeping it so cleare with their
Clamme-shell hoes as if it were a garden rather than a
Cornefield, not suffering a choaking Weede to advance
his audacious Head above their infant Corne, or an un-
dermining Worme to spoile his Spurnes."
They also used a hoe made of the shoulder blade of a
deer or a tortoise-shell, sharpened upon a stone and fas-
tened to a stick.
"Their corne being ripe, they gather it, and, drying
it hard in the sunne conveigh it to their barnes, which be
great holes digged in the ground in form of a brasse pot,
seeled with rinds of trees, wherein they put their corne,
covering it from the inquisitive search of their gorman-
dizing husbands, who would eate up both their allowed
portion, and reserved Seede if they knew where to find
Connected with aboriginal agriculture should be men-
tioned two important plants which were not cultivated but
were used extensively. The first is a food plant to which
writers refer as "rice," "Indian rice," or "Canada rice,"
Zisania aqiiatica, a grass which grows commonly along
the banks of streams and marshes and in shallow water.
It was easily gathered in the early fall and is palatable and
nutritious. It is still gathered and used in the stuffing of
game birds and is esteemed a luxury.
The other plant yielding a textile fiber, was the Indian
hemp, Apocynum cannabinum, which grew commonly in
294 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
this State. From the fiber of this plant the women twisted
twine or rope and made, among other things, fish nets,
sometimes twenty or thirty feet long (69. Vol. I).
Oldham, in a trading trip to Connecticut in 1633, found
that the Indian hemp grew spontaneously in the meadows
in great abundance. "He purchased a quantity of it," it
appeared to him ''much to exceed the hemp grown in Eng-
land." Later writers, however, pronounced it inferior to
Roger Williams says, "the Indians all take tobacco,
and it is commonly the only plant which the men labor in,
the women managing all the rest." This was probably
Nicotiana rustica, a smaller plant and inferior to our cul-
tivated species. It is stated that it was grown in Canada
as early as 1535. Flags and rushes and certain vegetable
dyes were used for making baskets. Carrier asserts (9),
that "a comparison, crop by crop, taking into considera-
tion acreage and value of these products with all other
crops now grown in the United States shows quite clearly
that our agriculture is about one-third American." The
agriculture of the Indians was chiefly if not wholly man-
aged by the women. Stiles says, (61 ) , that a common ex-
hortation at marriage was in substance, "You, man, must
take good Care to hunt deer and fish and provide Meat
for your Squaw. You, Squaw, must take care to plant
and hoe Corn and bring wood and cook Victuals for your
The Indian men are generally regarded as lazy, shift-
less and improvident in their family life, allowing or forc-
ing their women, who were reckoned to be inferior beings,
to do all the drudgery. No doubt there is much of truth in
this. Laziness, incompetence and contempt of women did
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 295
not mark the aborigines as absolutely different from many
of their successors in this State.
This judgment on Indian men must be tempered by
the following" facts :
The woman owned all the household property of the
family, including the tools used in farming, cooking, dress-
ing skins and making fabrics and in many tribes food,
skins and individual dwellings or wigwams.
Indian descent was generally through the female line.
Children belonged to the mother's, not the father's totem.
In some cases a female sub-chief sold land to the settlers,
but this, an international affair, was usually conducted
by the male chief .^
The man had to be always ready to join in a foray
against his neighbors of another tribe, or to repel a foray
from them. He was at all times and of necessity a war-
rior. Hunting and fishing required skill and strength.
Thus women were the property holders of the family
groups. Men represented the army, legislature and courts
and did such provisioning of the family as required cap-
ture and killing. All their work required at times pro-
tracted labor, exposure and hunger and when the search
for food and the defense of the property and life allowed,
they may have been, in the language of Kipling, "most
'scrutiating idle." When about his regular work the In-
dian was alert, crafty and superstitious v/ith occasional
streaks of loyalty and honor — and a reveller in all the
arts of hideous cruelty.
iln the allotment of land in severalty to the Indians in modern times
one grievance w^as found to be that it was allotted to the man and not to
his wife, contrary to their idea of what was proper.
296 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Agriculture in the Seventeenth Century
The aboriginal agriculture was the root on which the
Colonial agriculture was grafted. No attempt will be
made to recite the events of the colonization farther than
to note those which have a very direct bearing on agri-
It is important to consider the physical surroundings
of the first traders and immigrants who began coming to
Connecticut in 1631.
The country is described as a wilderness. Its topo-
graphical features were not very different from what
obtains today. It was, of course, much more thickly
wooded than now and abounded in heavy timber.^
There were of course no roads but only Indian trails
and the first settlers from Massachusetts had perhaps to
hew their way for a part of the journey.
The territory was not, however, wholly a forest, but
abounded as we have seen in open, roughly cleared tracts,
suitable for cultivation and capable of increased produc-
tion with the use of iron implements, axes, hoes and spades
which the colonists brought with them.
The whole area was occupied or claimed by various
tribes of Indians who numbered, according to Trumbull's
estimate, not less than twelve or fifteen thousand and
possibly twenty thousand (69. Vol. I). But DeForest
(23a), considers this much too high an estimate and holds
that 1,200 warriors and 6,000 or 7,000 individuals is a
liberal allowance for the aboriginal population.
They were more numerous in Connecticut, in propor-
2 (31) "The pine tree challengeth the next place and that sort which is
called the Board pine is the principal ; it is a stately, large tree, very tall,
and sometimes two or three fadoms about ; of the body the English make
large Canows of 20 foot long, and two feet and a half over, hollowing
them out with an adds and shaping the outside out like a boat."
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 297
tion to area, than elsewhere in New England, for the land
was rich in game, the waters rich in fish and the soil, in
parts, very fertile.
These Indians chiefly belonged to the Algonquin family
while over the border in New York was the Iroquois
family, or the "Six Nations."
These families were divided into a considerable number
Thus the west shores of Narraganset Bay were peopled
by the Narragansetts, numerous and warlike, who held
in partial subjection the weaker Nyantics near Point Ju-
dith. The fair dealing and tact of Roger Williams did
much to restrain the hostility of the Narragansetts to the
settlers. To the west of these and about the Thames River
were the still more formidable Pequots who for fierceness
and bravery were preeminent in southern New England.
Westward, in the lower Connecticut valley, were the
Monhegans, a small but valiant tribe held tributary to
the Pequots and restive under it. There were also numer-
ous lesser tribes within the present boundaries of this
State, Nehantics, Quinnipiacs, Tunxis, Podunks and
others. The thickly wooded mountain ranges between
Connecticut and the Hudson had few inhabitants. But
beyond., in New York, were the fierce Mohawks, dreaded
by all the others, to whom the Mohegans paid yearly
blackmail to avoid plunder and murder as far as possible
Down to about the time of the first settlement of Con-
necticut the New England settlers had experienced no
great trouble with the Indians.
They were at first disposed to be friendly but as the
settlements began to be pushed further inland and some
of their best clearings to be occupied by the invaders, even
298 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
though the land had been fairly bought of the tribal
chiefs, hostility increased and soon resulted in actual war.
Of predatory wild beasts, bears, wolves, panthers,
lynxes and foxes were very common and, as will be seen
later, were very destructive to the livestock and crops of
the settlers for more than a century.
Into this country adventurers came from Massachu-
setts in 1633 and halted at Windsor. This was a trading
expedition and made no permanent settlement. In 1635
about sixty men, women and children with their cows,
horses and swine came overland from Plymouth and
Massachusetts Colonies to the region of Hartford, start-
ing on October 15th. They were unable to build dwellings
before winter, their goods which were sent by sea were
lost and most of them made their way back to Boston.
A very few remained (10). But in 1636 Wethersfield,
Windsor and Hartford were settled by colonists from
The Newton (Cambridge) congregation, (38) through
their minister. Rev. Thomas Hooker, urged from the
authorities permission to migrate.
The reasons given were, the crowded state of their
lands which prevented their friends in England from join-
ing them,^ the fertility of the Connecticut soil as reported
by Oldham and the fact that settlement would shut out
the Dutch who were trying to establish a claim to Con-
necticut. 'The minds of this people were strongly in-
clined to plant themselves there."
Hooker wisely did not mention in his petition that there
was considerable discontent also with the narrowness and
3 Cotton Mather, (65. p. 17), in referring to the migration from Massa-
chusetts, said : "Massachusetts soon became like a hive overstocked with
bees, and many thought of swarming into other plantations."
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 299
strictness of the Winthrop-Cotton administration in
Permission was rather grudgingly given and a migra-
tion followed, apparently in three companies. One, of one
hundred persons, mainly from Dorchester, Mass., jour-
neyed overland in fourteen days and settled in Windsor.
The second company, mainly from Watertown, Mass.,
probably went from Boston by water to Wethersfield.
The third made their way overland with 160 head of cattle
"and fed of their milk on the way," and settled in Hart-
ford. "Women and children took part in this pleasant
summer journey which lasted about two weeks." Mrs.
Hooker, being ill was carried in a horse litter (26). In
the following year 800 people were living in these towns
(or settlements), forming the Colony of Connecticut.
In 1638 the town of New Haven was founded under
the leadership of Davenport and Eaton, which soon be-
came the republic of New Haven, including Mil ford and
Stamford, to which Southold on Long Island and Bran-
ford were afterwards added (26). Prior to 1640 there
were at least nine settlements made, four on the Connecti-
cut River and five others on the shore of Long Island
Sound. In the next decade five others were made on the
Sound shore and one inland. Between 1650 and 1685
eleven new settlements were made, three on the Connecti-
cut River, one on the seashore and seven not on navigable
waters. From 1685 to 1700 eight settlements were made
along the eastern side of the State as far north as Wind-
ham and two other inland settlements. The harbors of
New London, Saybrook, New Haven, Stratford, Bridge-
port, Norwalk and Greenwich were all occupied.
Thus, in the seventeenth century at least thirty-eight
settlements were made in Connecticut, eighteen on navi-
300 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
gable waters and twenty inland. Three of the thirty-
eight, however, were "set off" from previous settlements.
By 1660 practically all the shore from the Connecticut
River to the New York boundary was settled, most of the
Connecticut River border as far north as Windsor and an
area from New London north above Plainfield. By 1675
these boundaries were considerably expanded but shrank
again somewhat, following King Philip's war and ex-
panded rapidly afterwards. In Lois Matthews', "The Ex-
pansion of New England," (38), this is very clearly illus-
trated by maps. By about 1732 practically the whole State
was included in settlements or districts claimed by the
Dwight, (24, Vol. I) says that "exclusively of the
country of the Pequots,* the inhabitants of Connecticut
bought, unless I am deceived, every inch of land contained
within that colony, of its native proprietors." The same
thing was stated by Governor Winslow in 1676 regarding
Massachusetts settlements in his report to the English
Committee on Trade and Plantations (26).
This sale and transfer of lands from the Indian chiefs
was effected by deeds duly signed and witnessed. Thus
in 1638 Quinnipiac, now New Haven, was bought of the
chief Momauguin, subject to certain rights of hunting,
for one dozen coats, the same number of hoes, hatchets
and porringers, two dozen knives and four cases of
French knives and scissors.
A little later more land was bought for thirteen English
coats (30, Vol. I). The colonists thus obtained a tract
more than ten miles wide from north to south and thirteen
long from east to west, since divided into Branford, East
* The Pequots were nearly exterminated in the Pequot war in 1637.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 301
and North Haven, Woodbridge, Wallingford and Ches-
It has been said that the prices paid, always in com-
modities, were ridiculously small. Ridiculously small the
price appears now but the bargain was the free act of the
chiefs who, we may believe, considered that some warm
clothing and useful tools were worth more to them at the
moment than 130 square miles of wilderness in which
they still retained some rights.
Part of the later trouble with the Indians probably
arose from their misunderstanding of the nature of a
deed. In general they may have regarded it as conferring
only the right to live, hunt and fish in common with them-
selves, not as in any way the extinction of their own for-
Earlier a fort had been built at Saybrook, for defense
against the Dutch, and a grant of lands made under the
Warwick patent of 1631.
This was bought by the colony in 1644 from Fenwick,
agent of the proprietors.^
The Connecticut colonists, almost wholly English, con-
sisted chiefly of squires and yeomen, united rather closely
in thought and purpose. There were a few indented serv-
ants or "redemptioners" paying for their voyage to Amer-
ica by service, who in time became independent citizens
and a few slaves employed almost wholly in domestic
But it was a community holding substantially the same
5 The seal of the colony and later of the state, was probably given to
it, perhaps at that time, by Fenwick. Originally it represented a vineyard
of fifteen vines and above them a hand, issuing from clouds, holding a
label with the motto, "Sustinet qui transtulit." To carry out the idea of the
vineyard we may translate, without doing more violence to transtulit than
was done by Columella and Varro. "He who has transplanted maintains."
This seal has since been variously modified, as described in the Report
of the State Librarian, for 1912.
302 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
religious dogmas, the same political principles and a com-
The desire for religious and political freedom was the
chief motive which drove the first Pilgrims and Puritans
across the Atlantic, but probably the greater number who
followed them saw in the vast unoccupied lands of the new
world a chance to make a living unhindered by the tur-
moils of Europe, and the settlers of Connecticut, as we
have seen, urged as a reason for their migration the need
of room for further expansion.
The settlers in Connecticut, as in New England gener-
ally, with the exception of New Hampshire, unlike those
in colonies further south, were owners in fee simple of the
lands they occupied.
Community of tillage, to meet their most pressing want
of food, had been tried in the mother colony but had been
found less effective than private managment of personally
Individual holdings were at once set off, and for a good
while there was much undivided common land used by all
the proprietors for pasturage, timber, etc., but there were
frequent difficulties connected with this ownership in com-
mon which are witnessed by frequent acts of the General
Court. Thus very early it was ordered by the towns of
Wethersfield, Hartford and Windsor that five able and
discreet men from each town should ''take the common
lands belonging to each of the several towns into serious
and sadd consideration and after a thorough digestion of
their own thoughts, set down under their own hands in
what way the said lands may, in their judgments, be best
improved for the common good."
The boundaries of the individual allotments were not
very difficult to determine, but those of the separate settle-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 303
ments and towns and of the colony it was impossible to
fix accurately for many years. (The exact boundary line
between a portion of Rhode Island and Connecticut was
first finally determined under Governor Baldwin's ad-
Dwight, (24, Vol. II, 498) describes the settlement of
a dispute regarding land claimed by both New London
and Lyme in 1664. The distance, danger and expense
attending an appeal to the seat of government, decided
the disputants to settle the matter by a combat between
two champions selected by each of them. "On a day mu-
tually appointed, the champions appeared in the field ; and
fought with their fists, till victory declared in favor of
each of the Lyme combatants. Lyme then took possession
of the controverted tract and has held it undisputed to
the present day."
It appears that either this dispute was not finally settled
by this trial by combat, or that some new boundary dis-
pute arose, for about the year 1671 there was a "riot" be-
tween about thirty New London men who went to Black
Point to mow grass for their minister and a party from
Lvme who had come on a similar errand.®
There was a conflict of tongues, rakes, scythes, clubs
and fisticuffs ; the voice of the constable was heard in the
land — and disregarded. No one was killed though some
were bruised. Peacemakers finally prevailed and it was
agreed to leave the matter to the courts. "So drinking a
dram together with some seeming friendship, every man
departed to his home." But both parties were indicted for
assault, violence and riotous practices. As it was difficult
to get an impartial jury in that neighborhood the accused
_ 8 This land, 325 acres, had been sequestered in 1671 to the use of the
ministry forever (11). In 1668 the same land had been reserved by Lyme
for the support of their minister.
304 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
were tried in Hartford. Both parties were fined and the
fines subsequently remitted.
Regarding the civil government in the colonies; The
New Haven Colony was extremely theocratic in its char-
acter. Only church members had the franchise and this in
New Haven itself excluded one-half of the inhabitants
from a share in the government. Each town was governed
by seven ecclesiastics, known as "Pillars of the Church."
They served as judges without juries because no authority
for trial by jury was found in the laws of Moses.
The Connecticut Colony was much less strict in its
views of civil government. In the first year it was gov-
erned by Massachusetts, but immediately thereafter a
General Court was held in Hartford, May 31, 1638, and
on May 14, 1639, all the freemen of the towns met in
Hartford and adopted a written constitution. "It was
the first written constitution known to history, that cre-
ated a government and it marked the beginnings of
American democracy." It made no reference to the king
of England or any other government. Under it all rights
and powers not expressly given to the General Court
were reserved to the towns. It did not prescribe church
membership as a condition for the right of suffrage.^
In 1643 the four Colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth,
Connecticut and New Haven formed a league, "The
United Colonies of New England," including thirty-nine
towns with 24,000 inhabitants. The League was given
entire control of dealings with the Indians and with for-
eign powers and the administration was committed to
■f "The remarkable document, though deserving all the encomiums passed
upon it, was not a constitution in any modern sense of the word and es-
tablished nothing fundamentally new, because the form of government it
outlined differed only in certain particulars from that of Massachusetts and
Plymouth." "Later courts never hesitated to change the articles without
referring the changes to the planters." (3)
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 305
eight Federal Commissioners, two from each colony, all
to be church members. No permission was asked from
the home government. In 1661 a charter was granted
by Charles I to New Haven, but by it the colony was
annexed to its stronger neighbor, Connecticut, thus re-
ducing the number of the United Colonies to three.
The League continued till 1684 when the Massa-
chusetts charter was revoked by Charles 11. In 1687
Charles also revoked the Connecticut charter, but it was
never surrendered, and as the order for the surrender
of the charter was never enrolled it remained in force
and Connecticut was governed under it until 1818.
Concerning the relations with the mother country, we
see that the first settlements were made in the reign of
Charles I who, on the whole, was rather glad to get rid
of a lot of religious cranks and radicals moved to a wild-
erness across an ocean and three thousand miles from
England where they could praise God and fight savages
after their own fashion. He was willing to give them
charters and then to be rid of them while he reigned with-
out a parliament from 1649 to 1660.
Then followed the Commonwealth and the Protector-
ate when little thought could be given to
" * * * that small colony
Of pinched fanatics, who would rather choose
Freedom to clip an inch more from their hair,
Than the great chance of setting England free."
This was a period of prosperity and undisturbed
growth. But soon after the accession of Charles II the
seeds of disafifection were sown which resulted in the
revolution about a century later.
The story of the protection of the regicides in New
306 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Haven and elsewhere, of religious differences, of the
work of Andross and Randolph, the attempted annulment
of the charter, etc., need not be repeated here.
"The four years from 1684 to 1688 were the darkest
years in the history of New England." (Fiske). The
advent of King William and Queen Mary in 1689 closed
the long struggle with the Stuarts and lessened the ten-
sion between the Colonies and the mother country.
Such, in very brief outline, was the physical and polit-
ical environment of Colonial agriculture in this Colony in
the seventeenth century. Before it was settled the land
was a wilderness except where it had been partially
cleared and subdued by the crude methods of the Indians.
The colonists' farming tools were no ''better than had
the farmers of Julius Caesar's day; in fact, the Roman
ploughs were probably superior to those in general use in
America eighteen centuries later."
"The mass of production shows no radical difference
from that in ages long past." (2) "The Saxon farmer
of the eighth century enjoyed most of the comforts
known to Saxon farmers of the eighteenth."
But the spiritual comfort, the freedom from vassalage
and other forms of tyranny and the joy of self-govern-
ment made the Connecticut colonist a totally different
being from the eighth century peasant.
Nevertheless the earlier years were a fierce struggle
against starvation and murderous attack, demanding al-
most continual manual labor from all members of the
community, men, women and children alike.
It is not possible now to give any very precise picture
of the every day life of the early settlers or of the course
of their agriculture.
"There is but a slender residue from the vicissitudes
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 307
o£ history to throw any sufficient Hght upon some of the
habits, practices and daily concerns of the colonists in the
ordinary routine of their existence."
The first care of the settlers was naturally a provision
for continuous food supply after the store of provisions
which they brought from Massachusetts was exhausted.
Wheat/ rye and pease had been grown in the Massa-
chusetts and Plymouth Colonies, but the main reliance at
first was Indian corn. The reasons are obvious. They
had abundance of seed, they knew from the Indian ex-
perience that it yielded well and the method of planting
and cultivating had been learned from the Indians by the
settlers at Plymouth, "being instructed in the manner
thereof by the forenamed Squanto."^
As to the method of planting corn, Peters, writing in
1781 says, "Maize is planted in hillocks three feet apart,
five kernels and two pumpkin seeds in a hillock and be-
tween the hills are planted ten beans in a hillock. One
man plants one acre a day, in three days he hoes the same
three times and six days more suffice for plowing and
gathering the crop. The whole expense is thirty shillings
and allowing ten shillings for use of land, the whole ex-
pense is two pounds, while corn is worth two shillings per
bushel." He figures that the gain is seldom less than 300
and often 600 per cent. "It is thus that the poor man be-
comes rich in a few years," — and it is thus that a parson
;figures profits for the farmer. But this description of the
way of planting corn, though written in the following
8 In the third generation of farmers wheat had almost passed out of
cultivation and was got chiefly from New York and the southern planta-
9 Squanto, an Indian who had been carried to England, it is said, by
Waymouth, learned the English language and was afterwards returned to
his native home, Plymouth. He "proved a special instrument of God for
their good, beyond expectation; he directed them in planting their corn,
where to take their fish and to procure their commodities." (42)
308 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
century and by one to whom Ananias and Munchausen
were mere tyros, is substantially correct judging by other
accounts and was probably followed from the beginning ;
being adopted from the Indian practice. It is noted in the
old rhyme :
One for the bug,
One for the crow,
One to rot,
And two to grow.
At first fish was the only fertilizer. Three or four fish,
(menhaden), were put in a hill "and in them they plant
their maize which grows as luxuriantly therein as though
it were the best manure in the world ; and if they do not
lay fish therein the maize will not grow, so that such is
the nature of the soil." (42)
The colonists brought seed of other cultivated crops
with them for in 1638 among the supplies requisitioned
for the force engaged in the Pequot war are mentioned
corn, oats, pease and rice, see page — (63, Vol. I).
The colonists, while they were at first chiefly dependent
on Indian corn, wanted wheat to which they were more
accustomed and in 1640 (9) it was ordered, to promote
the production of English grain, that every farmer for
every team he owned could have one hundred acres of
plow land and twenty of meadow if he seeded twenty
acres the first year, eighty the second and the whole one
hundred the third.
Of the gardens of the early settlers in New England
almost the only account is that of John Josselyn in 1672.
(32). (Wood, 78). These accounts do not specifically
refer to Connecticut but probably conditions were quite
alike in all the New England Colonies.
"Of such garden Herbs, (amongst us) as do thrive
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 309
there, Cabbage, Lettice, Carrats, Parsnips of a prodigious
size, Red Beetes, Radishes, Turnips, Wheat,'" Barley,"
Oats, Pease of all sorts and the best in the world, and
Beans. In the gardens Josslyn also finds Sorrel, Parsley,
Marygold, French Mallowes, Burnet, Winter and Summer
Savory, Time, Sage, and — Purslain, (May Allah blot
it out). Red and black currants were grown and goose-
berries "grow all over the countrie" (31). Coriander,
Dill, "annis," "sparagus," Pepper wort, "Tansie," cucum-
bers and melons also grew.
Obviously the settlers very quickly provided themselves
with a variety of vegetable foods and with "English roses
There was also an abundance of fruit; plums, wild
cherries and various berries growing everywhere. Car-
rier, (10), quotes Roger Williams, "In some parts where
the natives have planted, I have many times seen as many
(strawberries) as would fill a good ship within a few
miles compasse : the Indians bruise them in a mortar and.
mix them with meale and make a strawberry bread."
Josselyn, in 1638-1639, found no apple or pear trees
anywhere except on Governor's Island in Boston harbor
where he got "half a score of very fair pippins." But on
his second voyage, thirty years later, he says that the
finest trees prosper abundantly, apple, quince, cherry,
plum and barberry and "the country is replenished with
fair and large orchards."
Perhaps the most particular account is that of the or-
chard of Henry Wolcott in Windsor. This was in bearing
10 Both winter and summer wheat were grown, the former accepted for
taxes at five shillings, the latter at four shillings per bushel, with com at
two shillings six pence.
11 As early as 1646 barley was grown in Wethersfield, probably chiefly
used for making malt for beer, an article of general consumption. (64)
310 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
before 1649. Summer Pippin, Holland Pippin, Pearmain,
"Belly Bonds" (Belle et Bonne), and London Pippin are
varieties named. He also sold orchard trees, both apple
and pear, as early as 1650. (65). The price of apples fell
in Windsor from eight shillings the bushel in 1650 to two
shillings sixpence to three shillings in 1654.
Josselyn was told by Wolcott that he made five hun-
dred hogsheads of "syder" from his own orchard in one
year, sold for ten shillings per hogshead, and that in
1654 he got 1,588 bushels of apples from his own orchard.
Cider, beer and other spirituous liquors were drunk in
large quantities in the Colony, Cider and beer were the
^common table beverages. Tea and coffee were very rarely
to be had before 1700 if at all.
"It has been truly said that fruit growing in America
had its beginning and for almost two hundred years its
whole sustenance in the demand for strong drink."
"As early as 1643 there was a weekly market in Hart-
ford and many towns established fairs or markets held
once or twice a year for the sale or barter of all kinds of
The houses of the early settlers, according to Hollister,
(30), were of wood and those of the more prosperous,
after the first thirty years, were framed. The frames
were of heavy oak timbers, some of them eighteen inches
in diameter. The rafters were larger than the sills or
beams of present day houses and supported slit sticks,
.called "ribs," to which were fastened long, reft, cedar
shingles. The siding was of oak clapboards, reft and
;smoothed. Only the sides of the rooms were plastered.
The floors were of oak. The windows were of two small
leaden frames with diamond-shaped panes and hinges
opening outwards. The outer doors were of double oaken
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 311
planks, made as solid as a single piece by nails or spikes
driven into them in the angles of diamonds. The rooms
were seldom over seven feet high, with enormous fire
places and a stone chimney. The buildings "are generally
of wood, some of stone or brick, many of good strength
and comelynesse, for a wilderness." (15, III. 1680).
Time was reckoned by farmers according to the work-
ing seasons as well as by the calendar. Events happened
at "sweet corn time," "at the beginning of hog time,"
"since Indian harvest," etc. (3)
The need of textiles was early felt. In 1640, (15. pp.
61, 64, 79), every family was required to get and plant
at least one spoonful of English hemp seed in good soil,
at least a foot between each seed "and tend it in husbandly
manner." The next year each family that kept a team
was to sow one rood of hemp or flax. Every family which
keeps cows, heifers or steers was to sow twenty perches.
Every family with no cattle shall sow ten perches and
tend it properly and every family was to provide at least
half a pound of hemp or flax.
In 1675 (15), to encourage the production of rape
oil, the monopoly of its manufacture was given to Wil-
liam Roswell for ten years.
The Court gave a subsidy of two shillings per acre per
annum to each person sowing cole seed up to eighty acres.
This was to continue for ten years. Tobacco was grown
prior to 1640 and in that year an act forbade the "drink-
ing of tobacco." Later a statute restricted its use to that
grown "within these liberties." This act was repealed
four years later. In 1680 a duty of two pence per pound
was levied on imported tobacco. In 1680, (15, Vol. Ill),
the Colonial authority reports, "Most people plant as
much tobacco as they spend." Honey was raised in
312 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Wethersfield as early as 1648. In 1650 an inventory in-
cludes "11 skipp of bees," valued at nine pounds, (40, p.
The colonists very quickly supplied themselves with
cereals and vegetables. Naturally to get an adequate sup-
ply of live stock required much more time. The first set-
tlers from Massachusetts brought with them one hundred
and sixty head of live stock and later settlers no doubt
brought many more. Wild hogs are mentioned in the
early records which may have been relics of the first ad-
venture to Windsor in 1633 to 1635. Breeding naturally
increased the number of swine more quickly than of
dairy stock and as early as 1637 pork was one of the sup-
plies furnished to the force which fought the Pequots.
The keeping of dairy stock, sheep and horses was handi-
capped by the scarcity of good hay land and pasture.
Eliot notes, (25), that the first settlers by tide water had
so much salt marsh mowing that they improved the land
nearest at hand and when, with growing population more
was needed for meadow they made use of old land without
breaking up more.
Salt marsh is neither good pasture nor is its hay the
most suitable for feed. Of the meadow and pasture
grasses at present used in Connecticut all, with possibly
one or two exceptions are introduced species (10). To
establish good mow land or even good pasture in a new
country, having only rather inferior herbage, was a work
of considerable time. Even in Eliot's time good hay was
In the revision of the Colony laws in 1672 to 1673 an
act required every male between forty and seventy, fit
for labor, excepting certain. magistrates or ruling elders,
physicians and school teachers, to work for one day in
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 313
June, cutting and clearing land as directed by the selectmen
for the encouraging of sheep raising. Nine years later
the law was modified, authorizing the townsmen to call
forth their inhabitants at such time as they think best to
kill the brush.
Before considering what was wrought by this colony
of farmers in the first sixty or seventy years of their
struggle with the wilderness there should be noticed in
particular some of the hindrances and obstacles to prog-
ress which had to be overcome.
As has been said their field and garden tools, either
brought from England or else made on the same pattern
at home, were of the simplest sort ; none of them, except
a clumsy plow, of a kind to use with draft animals. Sow-
ing, cultivating and harvesting were all done by hand.
Their farming tools, moreover, were of a kind designed
for tilling soil long under cultivation, not for subduing
forest land or scrub growth.
Though at first, as a rule, the Indians were not very
unfriendly to the colonists, their attitude soon changed.
The pushing of settlements inland incommoded the In-
dians. They had further embarrassed themselves by part-
ing with much of their cleared land and these things, to-
gether with their innate joy of plunder, murder and tor-
ture soon made them a menace to the settlers. Robbery
and murder became frequent.
The Connecticut settlements were chiefly harassed by
the Pequots and in May, 1637 an expedition left Saybrook
and near Groton met the Pequots in their fortified place
and after a severe fight killed nearly seven hundred of
them, only five escaping alive (26).
But another account says that in the Pequot fight at
''Mistick" at daybreak they took the fort after two hours'
%' A r,
314 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
fighting, by firing it, slew the two chief sachems, one
hundred and fifty fighting men and one hundred and fifty
old men, women and children, with the loss of two
Hon. John H. Perry, in a paper on "The Great Swamp
Fight in Fairfield" states that the remnant of the Pequot
nation immediately started to migrate to the Hudson and
passing westward was overtaken and besieged in a swamp
in Fairfield. There were eighty strong men with two
hundred women and children. Loath to destroy the women
and children, under a truce two hundred old men, women
and children were allowed to come out and surrender.
After a fight, not very sanguinary, about sixty or seventy
Indians broke through and escaped. This ended all
trouble with the Pequots.
After this there was no further organized fighting
with the Indians for thirty-eight years.
The expedition from Saybrook was provisioned from
the various Connecticut settlements and commanded by
Captain John Mason who reports, (5), "Our commons
were very short, there being a general scarcity throughout
the colony of all sorts of provisions" — "we had but one
pint of strong liquors among us in our whole march" —
"(the bottle of liquor being in my hand) and when it was
empty the very smelling to the bottle would recover such
as had fainted away, which happened by the extremity of
In spite of this victory, individual cases of robbery and
murder were not infrequent and the farmer needed to
keep his weapons constantly ready for use. As when Ne-
hemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, "Every one of
them with one of his hands wrought in the work and with
the other hand held a weapon." In 1643 it was noted that
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 315
"The order for one in each family to bring his arms to
the meeting house every Sabbath hath not been fully at-
King Phillip's war began in 1674 and in this the Narra-
The Great Swamp Fight, near Kingston, Rhode Island
decisively defeated the Indians but in 1676 Philip was
again on the war path and there were massacres in Massa-
,chusetts and Rhode Island; but in June, in a series of
fights, three or four hundred of the Narragansetts were
killed and later in the year Philip himself was hunted
down and killed. By 1688 the Indians were generally sup-
pressed (26). But Dwight (24, Vol. I), states that with
the Indians the colonists had to contend from 1675 till
1783 and within this period there were seven wars with
them; five stimulated by the French, King Philip's war
and the revolution.
In King Philip's war little damage was done in this
state but its armed forces were used in defending other
regions from the common enemy.
Besides the threat from the Indians, wild animals were
a great annoyance and did much damage so that bounties
were almost continually offered for their destruction. In
Windsor in 1647, (5), a panther killed nine sheep in a
yard. He was tracked and killed for which a bounty of
five pounds was paid as allowed by law. Wolves were the
most common and persistent pests. From the beginning
to the end of the century bounties were paid for their de-
struction ranging from eight to thirty-two shillings per
head. In 1640 by the town of Hartford *Tt is ordered yt
Learance Woodward shall spend his Time abought kil-
ling of wolf es & for his Incoragmentt he shall have 4s 6d
a weeke for his bord in casse he kill not a wolfe or a
316 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
deare in ye weake ; but if he kill a wolf or a deare he is to
pay for his bord himselfe & if he kill a deare we are to
Have it for 2d a pound," (14, VI). (Fearlessly this
scribe flouts all old world traditions in matters of orthog-
raphy and blazes a new way for the speller, with the
freedom of the new world, to the joy of his readers in all
In 1693 Stratford voted a wolf hunt, with a bounty of
three shillings per day for horse and man. A day was
set, all to be ready at seven A. M. on the hill at the meet-
ing house by the beat of the drum. No record is given of
the killing (49, p. 289).
Blackbirds were also a nuisance and a bounty of ten
shillings per thousand was paid for their destruction.
Even flocks of wild pigeons were destructive to grain.
As early as 1644 wheat blasted in Connecticut and New
Haven, (75, I. ), and in 1679, (15, III.), there is com-
plaint made of "an unaccountable blast on wheat and
pease." Later in an election sermon, (15, III.), reference
is made to God's smiting with "blasts, mildews, cater-
pillars, worms, tares, floods and droughts."
In a report by the Governor to the British Committee
for Trade and Foreign Plantations, he says: "Besides
for sundry years past the holy providence of God hath
smitten us year after yeare & these three or four yeares
past there is a worm breads in sd. pease which doth much
damnify them so that we are like, (by reason of said
losses at home and the heightened price of goods from
abroad), to remain a poor but loyal people."
There were besides, the usual vagaries of weather and
miscalculation of the crops most needed, which caused
In 1637 there was scarcity of corn due to Indian dis-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 317
turbances and the absence of men engaged in the Indian
war. The colonists were forced to buy corn of the In-
dians in Massachusetts. Corn rose to twelve shillings
per bushel, but fifty canoes came down later from Deer-
field, Mass., which gave great relief. Again in 1638,
(15, I.), it was necessary to import corn which it was
ordered to "goe" at five shillings six-pence in money, in
wampums at three a penny, six shillings per bushel, or
in beaver at nine shillings per pound.
In 1643 Winthrop reports that corn was very scarce
all over the country because of a cold, wet season, ravages
of pigeons and mice in the barns. The mice also damaged
orchards by girdling the trees.
But the next year there was a glut of corn, prices fell
and the growers were forbidden by the General Court to
sell ''out of the river" except to two agents who were to
pay four shillings per bushel for wheat and three for corn
and rye and who undertake to transport it over seas.
This overproduction may have been due, in part at least,
to the extraordinary bounty offered in 1640. The mer-
chants are to pay on the return of the ship or as soon as
return may be otherwise made in the best and most
suitable English commodities. Subsequent lawsuits prove
the failure of the scheme. This was the end of the first
"pool," undertaken to foil the "middleman" and by gov-
ernment action to sustain prices in a time of over-produc-
In 1662 it was forbidden to convey away out of this
river any corn or provision from any plantation on this
river. 1675 was another lean year as far as the staple
corn was concerned. The Colony, in reply to the Massa-
chusetts authorities, say they will supply what provision
for the army as they can, "but corn being very scarce with
318 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
us and the seat of war within our borders, we cannot do
all that is desired."
Regarding the population of Connecticut in this century
we have no exact figures. The most reliable estimate is
as follows (72, p. 9) :
In 1640 2,000 1680 13,000
1650 6,000 1690 18,000
1660 8,000 1700 24,000
"We compute the Indian neighbors of this Colony to
be about 500 fighting men" (1680). At this time there
were not above thirty slaves in the Colony.
In a community without extensive trade or business
relations with other sections of the country, a community
almost exclusively engaged in tilling the land and business
immediately concerned with it, current money was scarce.
We find therefore in the records of the General Court and
of town governments schedules of rates at which country
produce might be used for payment of a part (often one-
third) of taxes.
Thus the highest exchange price for winter wheat was
five shillings per bushel, in 1677 and 1698. The lowest
was four shillings in 1653.
Corn exchange prices ranged from two to four shill-
ings, rye and pease from two to three shillings sixpence
per bushel (15, III). Apples were quoted in 1653 at two
and a half to three shillings per bushel.
It remains to consider the condition of agriculture in
the Colony at the end of the seventeenth century. The
condition of agriculture was the condition of the Colon>,
for while the settlers on the sea and river coasts began
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 319
trading and commerce/^ yet agriculture, with lumbering,
stock raising and dairying as the chief business aside
from tillage crops was the almost universal employment.
The State was secured against the Indians and was in-
creasing in population and the area of tilled land. There
is no evidence of an improvement in the farming tools
used. The food crops and the vegetables of England were
raised with success and productive orchards had been
established. The quality of the meadows and pastures
was very poor, there being no meadow grasses which
were well suited for dairy stock.
Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts writes in 1660
to an English correspondent (37, VIII), "Now the coun-
try doth send out great store of biscott, flower, peas,
beife, butter and other provisions to the supply of Bar-
bados, Newfoundland and other places, ate." "This
country is now well stored with horses, cowes, shepe and
goates." No doubt the production and commerce of the
older Colony was much larger than that of Connecticut
but Connecticut shared in the general prosperity of the
New England Colonies.
In the same year Maverick (cited by Whedon, 75),
says, "For the southern part it is incredible what has been
done there." "All through the land there was plenty of
pears, apples and other fruit, muskmelons, watermelons,
A fair idea of the progress of agriculture may be
gleaned from the report of the Governor of the British
Committee on Trade and Foreign Plantations in 1680.
He states that the commodities of the country are peas,
rye, barley, Indian corn and pork, beef, wool, hemp, flax,
12 In 1680 there were 27 vessels owned in the state, the largest of 90
tons, with a total tonnage of 1,030 engaged in trade from river and coast
320 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
cider, perry and tar; deal boards, pipe staves, horses.
What was produced above the local demand was mostly
transported to Boston and there bartered for clothing,
though some small quantity was shipped to Barbados,
Jamaica and other of the West Indies and there bartered
for sugar, cotton and rum. For material for shipping
there is good timber of oak, pine and spruce for masts,
oak and pine boards, tar, pitch and hemp. "We are but
a poor people, we have lost and spent much of said estates
in the last Indian war. Said expense with our loss cannot
be estimated less than 30,000 pounds and no other ad-
vantage gained by it than the riddance of some of our
bad neighbors . . . For the most part we labor in tilling
the ground and by that time a year's . . . and labor hath
gathered some small parcel of provision and it is trans-
ported to the market at Boston and then half a crown
will not produce so much goods of any sort as ten pence
"We cannot guess as to the number of acres unsettled.
Most that is fitt for planting is taken up. What remaynes
must be subdued and gained out of the fire as it were, by
hard blowes and for smal recompense" (15, Vol, III).
The history of agriculture in Connecticut would not be
quite complete without this note. In 1644 "The proposi-
tion for the releife of poore schollars att Cambridg was
fully approved of, and thereupon it was ordered, thatt
Josua Attwater and William Davis shall receive of every
one in this plantation whose hart is willing to contribute
thereunto a peck of wheat or the value of itt." In 1645
Mr. Attwater reported that he had sent from Connecticut
forty bushels of wheat for the college at Cambridge
although he had not received so much. In 1647 "The
Governor propounded that the Colledge corne mi^ht be
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 321
forthwith paid — it will be a reproach that it shall be
said New Haven is falne off from this service."
It is interesting to note the attitude of the legislative
body towards tobacco and alcoholic beverages in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and to compare it
with the attitude at the present time.
Tobacco was grown in the Colony as early as 1644,
rum was imported from the West Indies and later made
in the State from the juice of cornstalks, though never to
any great extent. Intoxicants were freely used in the
community by clergymen and all classes of their parish-
ioners. President Stiles of Yale College enumerates
among the wonderful orderings of divine Providence
which conspire towards the establishing of the indepen-
dence of America, "Heaven has led us to the successful
experiment on corn stalks from whence it is probable may
be made an abundant supply of molasses and rum for this
whole continent." Cider was a common beverage in the
family and was not by any means a spiritless drink.
Licenses were required for selling strong liquors and
the maximum prices were fixed by statute (15, IV).
Captain John Mason, as we have seen, found use for
strong liquor in the Pequot War. In 1780 Congress called
for army supplies from this state and among them were
named 68,558 gallons of rum.
But tobacco, so vigorously condemned by that miso-
capnic sovereign, James I, in his Counterblaste of
Tobacco, was barred by the Colony.
In 1647 it was ordered that no one shall take tobacco
publicly on the street or in fields or woods unless wher he
is on a journey of at least ten miles, or at the time of
repast commonly called dinner, or if not taken then, not
above once a day at most, and then not in company with
322 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
any other. By the code of 1650 persons under twenty-one
and all others not already accustomed to it were forbid-
den to use the weed without a physician's certificate. No
one could publicly use tobacco on streets, highways, in
barns, or on training days in any public place. There
was however a gradual decline in tobacco morals for in
1680 its use was restricted to that grown in the Colony
and in the next century tobacco became a considerable
article of export and inspectors were appointed to see that
only merchantable tobacco was sold.
In the twentieth century the pendulum which marks
the effort to promote temperance in individuals by legisla-
tive acts has swung to the other extreme. Tobacco is used
everywhere by clergymen, physicians and all classes in
the community, both men and women, but the making,
selling or carrying of any alcoholic beverage or bringing
it within one hour's steaming distance of
" * * * thee,
Sweet land of Liberty"
is contrary to the Constitution and statute and punishable
by fine and imprisonment.
It would seem that the pendulum could hardly swing
further in either direction and may come back to the re-
gion of temperance in habits, legislation and language.
Agriculture in the Eighteenth Century
This period witnessed great changes in Connecticut,,
political, religious and economic.
The danger of extermination by Indians was wholly
past. They continued for some time to be a plague, in-
clined to plunder, but in' 1763 the Governor reports
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 323
(Appendix to the Public Records), that the Indians are
"in peace, good order and inclined to idleness."
Nor was the Colony any longer threatened by a very
dangerous lack of food.
Trade increased and manufacturing began on a mod-
As late as 1790 it is probable (72) that nine out of
every ten bread winners in the State were engaged in some
form of agriculture. A century later only three out of
ten. At the close of this century ninety-eight out of every
one hundred of the New England population could trace
their origin to England in the narrowest sense.
The following figures of population in Connecticut
(72) "may be accepted as expressing the best judgment
of students of history and statistics at the present time"
In 1700 24.000 1750 100,000
1710 31,000 1760 142,000
1720 40,000 1770 175,000
1730 55,000 1780 203,000
1740 70,000 1790 237,635
Up to the Revolutionary period there was an average
increase of about 33 per cent in each succeeding decade.
From 1770 to 1790 the increase per decade averaged only
about 18 per cent. This increase, reports the Governor,
"Under the Divine benediction we attribute to indus-
trious, temperate life and early marriage."
In 1713 two-thirds of the area of the State was settled,
and by 1754 the whole State was occupied.
The housing of the colonists became more substantial.
Brick w^as more often used in building. As late as 1770
brick was imported from England and Holland, perhaps
as ballast. But most bricks in Colonial buildings were
324 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
made at home. (As early as 1639 the Henry Whitfield
house in Guilford was built of stone and is still standing.)
The household in New England generally was a self-
There was little care for ornament or design. In the
first half of the century, at least, the household furniture
was likely to include shoemaker's tools, leather tanned in
the neighborhood, surgeon's tools and apothecary's stuff,
occasionally carpenter's and blacksmith's tools, and a
cider press. A spinning wheel was almost always in
the house and often a loom. The wood turner made
plates, etc., from "dish timber," probably poplar or
At this time "through New England men, women and
children wore homespun; linen shirts, tow cloth skirts
and breeches and woolen socks. Buckskin and lambs skin
breeches were common." Coats for heavy weather were
made of deerskin. These statements represent conditions
in the first half of the century among even well-to-do
farmers throughout the Colony. There was, of course, a
small fraction of the people, living near centers of inter-
course and trade whose houses and dress were more
elaborate and the dress of all classes gradually improved
in material later in the century.
Cereals and meats of all kinds were abuuvdant but there
was no means of keeping either meat or vegetables in
fresh condition. Many families lived through the winter
on smoked, salted and pickled food. But milk, butter and
cheese were available. Fruit, such as apples, could be kept
well into winter. Housewives pickled Indian corn and
other vegetables, nuts and oysters, they dried apples and
made "apple butter." Beer, cider, brandy and rum were
the ordinary beverages.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 325
Beer was brewed at home and spruce beer was used at
sea against scurvy (4).
From 1715 to 1750 a great change came over the
Colonies. *'No war, no constant danger from the French
or Indians, no menace to shipping on the seas." Hanover-
ians came to the EngHsh throne and there followed what
Burke called "a wise and salutary neglect." "The home
government giving up the idea of rigidly carrying out
the laws of navigation and trade, offered a generous
nature to take her own way to perfection."
Thus the colonists entered on an era of progress and
The clearing of land, raising food, producing clothing,
with the establishment of commerce, by which some
necessities and comforts were provided which it was not
possible to make at home, were practically the whole busi-
ness of the inhabitants, until the final struggle for inde-
pendence in 1776, when a seven years' war and six years
or more of labor in organizing and establishing a civil
government left little time or thought for improvement
in the methods or tools of agriculture which marked the
The only plow in use, up to the nineteenth century was
an unwieldy, heavy, wooden affair. The harrow was
wooden, with wooden pegs (45). The farm tools were
made locally; rakes, forks, axe helves, shovels with
wrought iron edges, flails, baskets and yokes, cheese
presses, bowls and paddles (53),
The means of transportation were, of course, very
limited. Carts with one or two horses were used on the
farm, but oxen were preferred for the heavier work.
Pleasure carriages were first seen in Middlesex County
about 1750 (16), and in Litchfield in 1776 and there
326 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
were few there until after the Revolutionary War. In
1761 there were only four "chaises" in New Haven.
New England soon became a network of roads and
highways, with main routes connecting important towns,
country roads and lanes, pent roads and private ways
leading to outlying sections (4).
Connecticut roads had a bad reputation. There were
few bridges, troublesome ferries and much soft and
rocky ground. They were referred to by travellers as
"most miserable" and "most intolerable."
These conditions were considerably improved in the
latter part of the century and bridges over the larger
rivers were more common. As roads are the subject of
another paper in this volume no further notice of them is
As to the principal crops raised in the eighteenth cen-
Indian corn continued to be the chief staple crop both
for family use and for stock feed. Eliot raised 60 to 70
bushels to the acre and the following year 90 bushels. The
Rev. Peters (52), says 40 to sixty bushels are raised on
even land; 30 to 40 on hilly land, but this latter weighs
13 pounds to the bushel more than that raised on river
land. Dwight, writing in the early part of the nineteenth
century, (24, Vol. I), says the average yield of corn is
25 bushels but he has seen crops of 118 bushels.
It was hoped to make the stalks available for the man-
ufacture of molasses. Stiles notes (62), "This is done
with only the Topping of the corn without damaging the
Ear or Grain. In old York, 8 M. from Portsmo. are
erected last week two Mills consisting of three plane
Wooden Cylinders with the Improvement of Cogs atop.
In these Mills they have already made considerable Mo-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 327
lasses from Corn Tops and some of the Molasses has been
distilled into good Rum. It is said that the Produce is at
the rate of two Bbls. Molasses to an acre of Corn." ''At
Dr. Gales in Killingworth, As I had first tasted good Mo-
lasses, 21st. Oct. at Greenfld made of Cornstalks, so here
Dr. Gale first showed me Spirits made of the Juice which
I tasted and also saw it sink Oyl." (62, Vol. II). And
later on, "At Middletown ten thousand gallons of stalk
juice were delivered in this fall to one distillery which
distilled near a thousand gallons of good rum."
The business began much earlier in the century. In
1717 (75, Vol. II), the General Court granted the sole
right to make molasses from Indian corn to Edward Hin-
man of Stratford. It does not appear that this business
ever became extensive.
Wheat was considerably grown until the appearance of
the Hessian fly when wheat growing was nearly aban-
doned. There were few varieties grown of both summer
and winter kinds. "But corn is very much the staple and
a scarcity of it affects the country more than a failure of
Dwight, (24, Vol. I), says that the Hessian fly first
appeared in New England in 1787, entering Fairfield Co.
and advancing about twenty miles a year. Peters says
that wheat generally yields from 20 to 30 bushels per
acre (52). Dwight puts the average production at 15
bushels though he has known of 40 bushels per acre.
Rye and barley were also grown.
Regarding forage, Eliot, in 1749, (25, Vol. II), com-
plains of the scarcity of hay and corn which is increasing.
The stock of the country has outgrown the meadows so
that the high price of hay limits the live stock. In a hard
winter the scarcity of hay must be made up with corn
328 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
and rather than lose cattle the farmers pinch their fami-
He mentions only two grasses native to the country,
Herd's grass or timothy and Foul Meadow grass, which
he pronounces to be much the best of the two. The seed
of these and of clover could be bought in market in 1765..
The lack of good meadow both for pasture and hay con-
tinued till the beginning of the nineteenth century.
"Agricola," writing to the Connecticut Courant, March
3, 1784, says: ''The parching heats to which this country
is exposed often occasions a want of summer pasture as
well as winter fodder. It is therefore of the utmost mo-
ment that the American cultivators should be informed
that artificial meadows constitute one-half of the rural
riches of Europe." He states that any farmers who wish
to experiment in the matter may get the seed from Nor-
mandy by applying to the French consul's office for which
the only charges will be its purchase price in Normandy
with land carriage from Caen to Port I'Orient. This is
made possible by the generosity of His Most Christian
Majesty, the King of France. He then discusses the
merits of clover, sain foin, lucerne, (alfalfa), and Hy-
vernage, a species of winter vetch.
The time of the introduction of potatoes seems to be
somewhat uncertain, probably between 1705 and 1750
(10). Andrews states, (4), that they were not intro-
duced until after the advent of the Scotch-Irish in 1720,
and they did not for some time become a common vege-
A few appear, probably as a curiosity, at a Harvard
dinner in 1708 (75). Trumbull gives the date of their
introduction into Connecticut as 1720 (70, Vol. I). They
were first seen in Windsor' in 1760 (65). and were little
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 329
used there till after the revolution; (53), but a corres-
pondent in Saybrook writes to President Stiles in 1767,
(61, p. 463), "We improve in potatoes in this colony ex-
ceedingly. Many farmers raise 500 (bushels) per An.
T don't think myself stored without 150 bushels per An.
They make butter and beef and store excellently well."
Wethersfield is the traditional home of the onion and
there is record, (64), of their being an article of trade as
early as 1710. Later large quantities were raised here and
shipped to New York.
In 1780 Wethersfield citizens protested against an act
of the Committee of Public Safety which forbade ship-
ment or sale of produce outside the State. Anticipating a
great demand Wethersfield had raised more onions than
ever and many more than the army and navy could use,
and the excess they could neither sell nor barter for the
selling to army and navy had to be done through an agent
of the government who would take only a moderate share
of the crop. The growers were therefore in great dis-
A traveller notes in 1788 that "Wethersfield is remark-
able for its vast fields uniformly covered with onions, of
which great quantities are exported to the West Indies."
The common garden vegetables and herbs as we have
seen were usually raised in the preceding century.
Maple sugar was made in Norfolk and Goshen and
probably in many other parts of the Colony. In 1774
16,000 pounds were produced in Norfolk and in 1784 a
third more (62, Vol. III).
As we have seen, fruit, particularly apples, were grown
in considerable quantity early in the settlement and were
used largely for making cider. The planting of orchards
330 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
apparently increased with the increasing quiet and pros-
perity and more attention was paid to the finer varieties.
Dudley, states that in 1726 Pearmain, Kentish Pippin
and Golden Russetin were esteemed apples in New Eng-
land and Orange and Bergamont were cultivated pears.
It is likely that at first many of the apple trees were seed-
lings and their fruit was mainly ''cider apples" rather
than good eating varieties. In a paper on the Pioneers of
Pomology in New Haven, (44, Vol. I), the author says
that Benjamin Douglass was the first propagator of fine
fruit in New Haven known to him. In 1775 he planted
64 cherry trees, all grafted. White and Black Ox Hearts,
Honey Heart and May Duke. In 1780 or soon after
grafts of Delancey pear and a large, sweet, red apple were
distributed and the pear, called Jonah, was still alive in
Nathan Beers, before 1779 grew Catharine, Jargonelle,
Warden, St. Michael's Bergamont and many other pears.
T. S. Gold of West Cornwall reports (21), that he has a
Seeknofurther, grafted near the ground, the last survivor
of an orchard which he believes was set out in 1760.
Of other than food crops, the growing of flax, hemp, silk
and broom corn was undertaken with more or less suc-
cess. Broom corn was early cultivated in Wethersfield
and in 1797 the first broom was made from this plant
(64). It is matter of tradition that Benjamin Franklin
introduced this plant in 1781 from seed which he saved
from a whisk broom that came from the West Indies.
Previously brooms were made from splints.
Hemp was greatly needed for cordage for the vessels
built on the coast and the Indian hemp was not satisfac-
tory in quality or sufficient in supply. The growing of
English hemp became necessary. In 1734, (15, Vol. VII),
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 331
the Colony offered bounties for good, well-dressed, water-
rotted hemp in lots of not less than 50 pounds, raised in
the Colony and for "well wrought canvas or duck," In
1740, (10), every family was ordered to get at least a
spoonful of English hemp seed and "sow in some f rutfull
soyle, at least a foote distant between every seed, and the
same so planted, shall presarve and keepe in husbandl)'
manner for supply of seed for another yeare."
Later bounties were ofTered by the court for fine linen
cloth woven in the Colony. In 1787 the State ordered that
forty shillings per acre of land on which hemp was raised
should be abated by the assessors on the tax of said land
and after 1789 a duty was to be laid on imported hemp.
More important to the families of Connecticut was
flax. Cotton goods were very scarce. "Cotton wool" had
long ago been imported from the West Indies in very
moderate quantity but it was used not for making cotton
fabrics but for the lining of vests to be worn as a protec-
tion against the arrows of the Indians. In 1643 every
family in New Haven plantation was required by law to
have a coat of cotton wool well and substantially made,
"so as it may be fit for service and custom" ; and probably
the law required this until there was no longer danger of
an Indian attack.
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century the com-
mon wearing apparel, at least outside the centers of popu-
lation, as well as other household fabrics, were homespun
and spun and woven by the family or the immediate
neighborhood from home-grown wool and flax. In some
places this home weaving continued well into the nine-
teenth century but probably little flax was grown after
1830. Apparently it was grown on a considerable scale
332 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
for a time for its oil and the cake from the presses was
used for feed as it is at the present time.
The growing of mulberry trees and silk worms and the
manufacture of sewing silk and silk fabrics was an indus-
try which had its rise and considerable development in
this century. Stiles states that the first silk worms raised
in New England were grown by Rev. Dr. Wigglesworth
of Harvard College about 1727. The industry began in
Connecticut about 1732, (12), and was not abandoned
till about 1840.
In 1734, (15, Vol. VII), the production of silk was
encouraged by bounties offered by the Colony for the
production of sewing silk and silk fabrics from silk worms
bred and nourished within the Colony.
In 1747, Governor Law wore the first coat and stock-
ings made of New England silk and in 1750 his daughter
wore the first gown made of the same material. Governor
Leete raised silk and wore a suit of it about 1783.
President Stiles of Yale College took great interest in
the project and probably did more than any one else to
make possible a chance of success in the industry, by his
careful studies in breeding and feeding the worms and in
getting mulberry trees planted throughout the State, the
foliage of which is the sole food of the worms. In the
library of Yale University is a manuscript volume with
the title, "Observations on the Silk Wormx and the Culture
of Silk, A. D. 1763, Being the Journal of an Experiment
in Newport, R. I., in the Summer of 1763 in Raising
about 3,000 Silk Worms. By Ezra Stiles." He spared
no manual labor, nor painstaking observation of his
worms and kept a full record of his daily observations.
These cannot be further noticed here, but it is pleasant
to see that this eminent divine named the three worms
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 333
which he had under very particular observation, for con-
venience of reference, General Wolfe, Oliver Cromwell
and Yeo. "General Wolfe and Oliver Cromwell, his com-
panion, very sluggish, eat a little or rather nibble." "Yeo
has not yet settled himself. Oliver in indolence below."
. In 1788, 1789 and 1790 Stiles sent to each of eighty
ministers in the State enough mulberry seed to grow 4,000
trees, with the understanding that at the end of three
years three-quarters of them shall belong to the planters
and the others distributed by the minister gratis in his
parish. In 1784 the State offered bounties for growing
mulberry trees under suitable conditions. In 1789 a writer
in the Connecticut Courant states that there were about
12,000 mulberry trees in the State. Silk culture was begun
in Mansfield and neighboring towns as early as 1760 and
there it maintained its foothold until about 1840.
The largest amount of reeled silk produced in any one
year in Mansfield is stated to have been 7,000 pounds,
but in general not above 3,000 pounds. The New London
Gazette, of March 31, 1769, states that William Hanks
of Mansfield is now "cultivating a large vineyard and last
year raised silk sufficient to make three women's gowns."
A very limited amount of silk was produced in many
places through the State until about 1835 when a silk bub-
ble business grew rapidly until about 1839 or 1840 when
it burst and ended silk culture in this State. The Morus
multicaulis is a mulberry growing more rapidly and hav-
ing much larger leaves than the black or white mulberry
which had been grown hitherto. Nurseries of the multi-
caulis were established and the prices of trees rose from
one and two dollars apiece to as much as $300 to $vSOO
per hundred. In 1839 the nursery men suffered from the
334 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
financial panic of 1837 and it appeared that the multi-
caulis was not hardy enough for the northern states.
Prices went to pieces and many nurseries were ruined. To
close the whole story a fatal blight of the mulberry trees
became common all over the country which resulted in
the death of the worms and the practical abandonment
of the business. But the failure of silk production was in-
evitable even if there had been no panic and no multicaitlis.
The feeding of silk worms can only be successfully car-
ried on where hand labor is exceedingly cheap and abund-
ant and the scale of living is very low.
Tobacco had been grown in Connecticut in the preced-
ing century for home consumption but in the eighteenth
century it had become an article of export. In 1753 in-
spectors were appointed to pack all tobacco which was
offered for sale. Stiles states that tobacco was packed in
hogsheads and shipped to the West Indies. It sold for
five-pence the pound. The date is not clear but probably
The acts of Connecticut published in 1784 provide that
"Whereas Tobacco is or may be a considerable Article of
Exportation and ought to be under such Regulation as to
prevent Fraud therein," each town was to elect two or
more surveyors or packers of tobacco, ''who shall care-
fully survey and search the Tobacco by them to be packed
and shall cull out and separate all such Hands of Tobacco
as are in Whole or in Part damnified in any way or by
any means whatever : and shall pack or press no Tobacco
but what is judged by him to be sound, well ripened, suffi-
ciently cured and every way good and merchantable." The
packer is required to brand each cask or container which
he packs with the first two letters of his name and with
the name of the town wherein he dwells.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 335
No one may pack his own tobacco or transport any
The object thus sought in 1784 is one of the aims of
the Connecticut Valley Tobacco Improvem.ent Associa-
tion very recently established in this State.
Along with the more strictly agricultural business of
the farmers of the Colony should be mentioned the tapping
of pine trees and the making of tar, pitch and turpentine
which, used to some extent at home, were articles of ex-
From the earliest days sheep and hogs were commonly
raised and their numbers increased easily and rapidly.
Pork was sufficiently abundant to be exported. More
sheep were raised in Connecticut, (in 1781), than in any
two of the other colonies. "Their wool is better than in
other colonies but not so fine or good as the English"
(52). The wool used for clothing or bedding was spun
and wove in the separate families. In 1774 the General
Court notes that "It is practiced by some particular in-
habitants to turn large flocks (of sheep) on the highways
with a keeper and thereby eat up and destroy the herbage
therein to the great detriment of the poor inhabitants of
such towns," and orders that no one shall turn more than
fifty on the highway without getting permission from the
town (15, Vol. 14).
The number of cows increased more slowly but butter
and cheese were exported, at least in the latter part of the
The town of Goshen early established a reputation and
foreign trade in cheese which will be noticed later.
Trouble from wolves continued through the eighteenth
century, though their number was very materially reduced
and at its close was probably so small as to make the
336 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
damage done by them infrequent. Bounties were offered
for their destruction partly by the Colony or State and
partly by the town, as high as fifteen pounds, "old tenor,"
in 1750, three pounds in 1784, which represent the ex-
When Goshen was settled about 1730, bears, raccoons,
wolves and foxes were plenty and for a long time there-
after. Beavers were also found.
The wolves were especially troublesome and injurious.
In 1784 four wolves appeared one Sunday in the vi-
cinity of Norfolk and fearing for their stock an alarm was
given to the congregation in church. About eighty men
turned out and after a chase got all the marauders. The
church service was over, for them, and "the whole party
then retired to an Inn and spent the day in joy and fes-
Bears were taken in Litchfield County between 1760
and 1770, (16) and wild cats occasionally destroyed sheep
and lambs. About the same time (5), a bear was killed
in Bethany which had destroyed calves and bee hives and
even had the effrontery to enter a house and lap up the
milk and cream. A panther, (5), in 1767, which had
killed nine sheep in a yard at Windsor, was tracked and
Dogs, first cousins to the wolves, had become common
and developed that fondness for mutton which their age
cannot wither nor custom stale.
In 1738 a law provided that if a selectman declared that
evidence of harm to sheep or cattle was, in his opinion,
satisfactory, the dog concerned might be killed and the
owner be liable for damages. Any dog found at large in
fields or woods without a master might be lawfully killed.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 337
Various other laws regarding damage by dogs were
passed from 1716 to 1786.
A minor pest, then as now, was mice which occasionally
girdled orchard trees (25, Vol. II).
Blackbirds were enough of a plague in 1711 to cause
the Hartford authorities, (14, Vol. VI), to require every
rateable person to kill one dozen blackbirds in the four
months beginning with March or else to pay a fine of
one shilling. Those who kill more than a dozen may re-
ceive a penny apiece.
Wheat had been seriously affected by "blast" which
came to be rightly attributed to the presence of barberry
bushes. In the Colonial Records for 1726, page 10, it is
recorded "Whereas the abounding of barberry bushes is
thought to be very hurtful, it being by plentyful experi-
ence found that where they are in large quantities they
do occasion or at least increase, the blast on all sorts of
English grain," the inhabitants of each town are em-
powered to agree on the utter destruction of such bushes
within the town and the time and manner of their de-
A fine of ten shillings is imposed on any one who op-
poses the destruction, to be paid for every month he op-
poses until he gives free consent. Provided that if the
bushes are depended on for a fence, the town shall make
In 1784 the Laws of the State of Connecticut provide
that any one, with the advice and consent of the civil
authorities and selectmen of the town may, during March,
April, October and November, enter any lands where bar-
berry bushes are growing and dig up and destroy them
without being liable to any action, suit or damage. In
1796 the town of New Haven. ( 16) , granted $200 for the
338 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
purpose of destroying the barberry bushes within its lim-
its and they were "principally destroyed." "The method
adopted to destroy them was to eradicate them."
This was nearly one hundred and fifty years before
botanical studies proved a direct connection between the
blast of wheat and barberry bushes. The farmer knew
nothing of Puccinia graminis and "heteroecious rusts"
which must spend a part of their life cycle on one plant
and a part on a different one. But they adopted a plan
which was effective and which the farmers of the middle
west are now carrying out at a very considerable expense.
No extended discussion of economic history is here in
place, but because farm produce had largely to serve the
purpose of money in the exchange of service, a brief
notice of financial conditions is proper.
The amount of money in the Colony had been relatively
very small ever since its settlement. The need for it had
also been quite limited.
As we have seen the dwellers in Connecticut for a cen-
tury and a half had been engaged in settling and subduing
a wilderness, producing food and clothing for their own
families and having very limited intercourse or trade with
the world outside." Barter took the place of a common
medium of exchange. But this scarcity of money became
an acute embarrassment when intercourse between com-
munities and foreign trade developed. The close of the
war of independence (72), found finances in almost hope-
less confusion and there was little improvement before
the end of the century. All coins, excepting coppers, were
foreign, many badly worn or mutilated. The Spanish
ISA farmer writes (19, Aug, 18, 1788), "At this time my farm gave me
and my whole family a good living on the produce of it and left me, one
year with another one hundred and fifty silver dollars ; for I never spent
more than ten dollars a year, which was for salt, nails and the like. Nothing
to wear, eat or drink was purchased, as my farm provided all."
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 339
"milled dollar" or "piece of eight" was most common, ob-
tained in the West India trade and after the war this and
its subdivisions were the recognized unit of account, equiv-
alent to the dollar. The other most common coins were the
French guineas and pistoles, Portuguese moidores and
"Johannes or "Joes" ^* and Spanish doubloons and pistoles.
The supply of fractional currency was inadequate and
silver pieces were often cut in halves or quarters. The
coins of Great Britain were in very limited circulation.
In 1785 Congress made the silver dollar the currency
basis of a decimal system. The equivalent of the dollar
in New England was six shillings but was different
in different states. Large amounts of paper, "Continen-
tal" money entered circulation during the war and suc-
ceeding years, the value of which went from bad to worse.
In 1780 one dollar in silver was the equivalent of 65
dollars in paper money which became "not worth a conti-
nental" when Congress refused to accept its own paper
money in payment of postage.
In November 1777, (15), Congress recommended that
commissioners be appointed in the several states, New
Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New York,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware to meet in New
Haven, to ascertain and regulate the price of labor, manu-
factures, internal produce and commodities, imported and
to recommend legislatures to enact suitable laws in ac-
cordance with their recommendations. There is a con-
siderable list of these recommended prices in lawful
money, six shillings to the dollar. (The "dollar" was the
equivalent of a "piece of eight" ).'^^ Among them are:
1* A gold coin, worth about nine dollars coined by John (Johannes) a
king of Portugal.
15 A suggested explanation of the dollar sign, $, is the use of the numeral
8 with two vertical lines to give it a monetary significance.
340 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Wheat, peas, beans, per bushel $ 1.61
Rye or rye meal 1.08
Indian corn or meal 75
Butter, (firkin or cask) per pound 20.7 — .22
Neat leather shoes 1.99
Best American steel, per ton 66.40
All through the history of the Colony^® and especially
towards the latter part of the eighteenth century we find
efforts made to regulate the price both of labor and com-
modities and to fix the price at which commodities could
be used for the payment of a part of the state or town
taxes. Sheldon cites, (57), "colony pay" at which grain
and other articles would be received for colony taxes,
"town prices" at which the same things would be received
for town taxes or for exchanges, "provision pay" was
grain or other food.
Thus, for paying town debts the value of wheat was
fixed at 6 shillings the bushel in 1722, 12 shillings in 1740,
16 shillings in 1742, and 17 in 1746, "old tenor." Values
for other cereals are also given.
The wages of laborers in Goshen (29), were fixed at
town meeting at 5 shillings a day, from Oct. 1 to the last
day of February and at 6 shillings a day for the rest of the
year. How this regulation was received, whether it met
with objection or was disregarded does not appear. The
mention of penalties is not prominent and one imagines
that the law was a convenience to facilitate barter rather
than a stern restriction to prevent profiteering. But in a
friendly neighborhood where the struggle for wealth was
The shilling would then be 12^ cents, one-eighth of the dollar or the
piece of eight.
18 As early as 1641 (65), the General Court regulated by statue the scale
of prices for different kinds ol labor, hours of day labor, etc.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 341
not pressing, because hardly obtainable, some standard
for exchanging provisions which did not involve money
must have been a great convenience.
If we agree to call a bushel of wheat this year $1.61
and of corn 80 cents, we manage to get one or the other
without dispute, though the dollar itself is far from us."
The Mexican, whose offer to lend his mule to a stranger
was thankfully accepted, replied "Oh, sir, I have no mule
but I beg you to receive the compliment." In like manner
the farmer might say to his shoemaker, 'T have no dollar
to pay for your work but I beg you to accept a bushel
and a peck of corn with my compliments."
The general progress of agriculture and its condition
at various times in this country may be indicated by the
following extracts from the reports made by the Colonial
government to the English Committee on Trade and
Foreign Plantations. These, or most of them are found
in manuscript copies of Foreign Correspondence with the
British Government 1668-1748, in State Library, pgs,
126, 145, 149, 165.
"The number of our inhabitants is about 4,000. (!) A
little pitch and turpentine and tar are sent to Great Bri-
tain. Trade is principally with Boston and the West In-
dies,^^ consisting in what is chiefly produced by tillage of
the land. Most people weave their cloth in their own
families. Horses and lumber are sent to the West Indies
in exchange for sugar, salt, molasses and rum."
"Coarse cloths and coarse linens are made amongst us
of our own wool and flax without which our people must
17 A shoemaker's ledger from 1770 to 1784 (34), shows that he was paid,
for making shoes, in walnuts, butter, sugar, salt, milk, wheat, rye, wool,
meats, cider and rum.
18 At this time only 42 vessels were owned in the colony with a tonnage
of 1,225, a very small gain over the year 1680.
342 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
go naked or ragged ye greater part of the time. We tan
our own leather and make most of our own shoes."
In 1708, "The trade of this Colony is principally what
is produced by their tillage of the land. The manufac-
turers in this Colony are but few. There is but one clothier
in the Colony so that our people are necessitated to weave
the cloth that they can make in their own families with-
out any thing more than fulling of it, (for the most
part), after it comes out of the loom. All we make is not
enough to serve the occasions of the poorer sort."
In 1728, 'The trade of the Colony is but small. Horses
and lumber are exported from home to the West Indies
for which we ... in exchange sugar, salt, mo-
lasses and rum. What provisions we can spare and
some small yearly ... of tar and turpentine are
sent to Boston and New York and Rhode Island for
which we . . . European goods."
The last report to the Committee, made just before the.
Revolution, (Appendix to Public Records, 1772 to 1775)
names the same agricultural products as were common
about a hundred years before, with the addition of flax.
The staple commodities were pork, beef, pot and pearl
The principal trade was with the West Indies with an
occasional cargo of flax seed to Ireland, to England with
lumber and potashes and a few to Gibralter and Barbary
with flour, lumber and New England rum.
The value of the exported produce and commodities
may be 200,000 pounds. Manufacture of linens and
woolens was done in the family, for the use of the poorer
.sort, laborers and servants. Iron, mostly bog iron, was
rmanufactured to some extent "but hitherto not a supply
ior our inhabitants."
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 343
In the eighteenth century three Connecticut men ap-
pear prominent for service in promoting and improving
agriculture. There were no doubt others who were also
leaders, but these three have left permanent records of
their services. Rev. Ezra Stiles, D. D., LL. D., was the
President of Yale College, from 1777 to 1795. He has
left a record of his studies in the growing of silk worms,
diligently carried for two years or more. He was the
chief agent in planting mulberry trees throughout the
State, which provides food for the silk worms, and he
showed great interest and helpfulness in all agricultural
Rev. Jared Eliot of Killingworth, a grandson of John
Eliot, the apostle to the Indians, a graduate of Yale, was
a clergyman of Killingworth, most acceptable in this
calling and it is recorded, (16), that for more than forty
years he never failed of preaching at home or abroad a
part of every Sabbath. He was also a physician, very ex-
tensively employed in the neighboring places "and such
was his reputation that he was sometimes called out of
the Colony." "Much of his practice was performed gratu-
itously and in charities he abounded." Connected with
his knowledge of medicine was his acquaintance with the
botany of the region. He was withal a successful farmer
and "acquired a large landed estate which laid the founda-
tion for the wealth of a numerous family." But aside
from his example as a progressive and successful farmer,
his chief service was in his writings, the most interesting
of which is a series of Essays upon Field Husbandry
in New England as it is or may be Ordered. This, it
is believed, was the first practical agricultural treatise
written in this country.
The first of these essays appeared in 1748 and in sub-
344 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
sequent years five others, with an index concluding the
series in 1761.
He discusses the handling of tilled land, drainage, the
grasses which he finds most useful, the production of
silk, the use of creek mud as a fertilizer, etc. He intro-
duced and urged the growing of clover which made its
way into general farming very slowly (25, Vol. II). He
was an experimenter and reported the results of his
work for the benefit of the public. Prof. Eli Ives, in an
address before the New Haven Horticultural Society in
1837 states that Jared Eliot introduced chicory into this
State and that he was the first native citizen of this coun-
try to be elected a member of the Royal Society of Lon-
don. He also appears to have been the first to introduce
an agricultural machine, a seed and fertilizer drill. Start-
ing with Jethro Tull's wheat drill which he found very
intricate and expensive, "But knew not how to mend it,
therefore applied myself to the Reverend Mr. Clapp,
President of Yale College and desired him for the regard
which he had to the public and to me, that he would apply
his mathematical learning and mechanical genius, in that
affair, which he did to such good purpose that this new
modelled drill can be made with a fourth part of what
Mr. Tull's will cost."
Next Eliot wanted a dung drill for which there was
no model or precedent available. But Benonai Hylliard
of Killingworth, a wheelwright, devised one which was
combined with the seed drill so that they became one tool
and could distribute 80 bushels of dung per acre, along
with the seed. Eliot adds that Tull writes, "Two shil-
lings in horse plowing would do more than forty shillings
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 345
To this Eliot remarks, 'T should be glad, if in our
climate one-half of this would prove true."
The perfected drill received an award of fifty pounds
offered by the New London Society for the Encourage-
ment of Arts, and there was dispute between the estate
of Jared Eliot and Hylliard as to the possession of this
Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century
The agriculture of the seventeenth century had been a
struggle of each family to produce for itself by its own
labor, food, clothing and shelter and to defend itself
against the attacks of Indians and the ravages of wild
beasts which together threatened the destruction of the
settlements. It was truly a struggle for existence.
Agriculture in the eighteenth century had been less
menaced in these ways but was interrupted by the war
with the mother country, by emigration to western lands
and by the political agitation incident to the establishment
of a federal union. These were matters of great concern
to men who had fled from what they considered political
and religious injustice, matters not to be left to the tender
mercies of a politician class but to be anxiously and often
acrimoniously discussed in their town meetings as well
as in the state legislative assembly by men who thought
more about the future of the State than of improvements
In general each family formed a closed circle, contain-
ing within itself both producers and consumers in about
"The close of the Revolution found the State greatly
impoverished. The demands made on the State for pro-
visions for the army," says Gov. Trumbull," were "vastlv
346 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
beyond her just proportion. Payment in depreciated cur-
rency involved financial loss and discontent. Connecti-
cut also bore the expense of defending her own coasts,
an expense which the federal government refused to as-
At the beginning of the nineteenth century nine-tenths
of the inhabitants got most of their living from the farm.^®
Even those who had other business or profession, arti-
zans, lawyers, physicians and clergymen, all had farming
land and supported themselves partly from its produce.
This is illustrated by a statement that the doctors in
Canterbury practiced medicine "when they had nothing
more important to do," and the inventory of a physician
in that region, besides his stock of drugs, included a pair
of oxen, thirteen cows, thirty-five head of young cattle
and sheep, swine, hay, farming tools, etc. It was usual
to set aside a tract of land for the support of the minister
and he also was often dependent, in part, for support, on
his own work in farming.
It was only a very inconsiderable portion of the popu-
lation which did not clothe and feed itself, mostly by its
own labor and on its own land. The sum total of manu-
factures was not large and manufacturing, particularly
of clothing and other textiles, was chiefly done, not in
factories but in families and was, up to this time, largely
for home or community consumption.
The methods of agriculture made no marked improve-
ment in these two centuries. Bidwell, (8), says "The
ignorance and the conservatism of farmers were to some
extent hindrances to agricultural progress, cheap land on
19 In 1810 about one-tenth of the population lived in towns of between
five and six thousand, one-quarter in towns of between three and five
thousand dwellers (average thirty-seven hundred), and about two-thirds in
still smaller communities.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 347
the frontier discouraged cultivation at home; but these
circumstances do not, either alone or in combination, fur-
nish a sufficient explanation of the state of the industry
'Tn the background lay a condition of much more sig-
nificance because of its determining force upon all the
others. I refer to the lack of a market for agricultural
products." The author asserts that with a suitable mar-
ket, neither ignorance of methods, nor cheap land inviting
extensive rather than intensive farming would have stood
in the way of agricultural progress. But with little or
no chance to sell a surplus of corn, butter, cheese, etc.,
of what use was it for the inland farmers to raise such a
surplus ? It was time and labor wasted.
Agriculture was waiting for an increase of non-pro-
ducing population, and facilities for foreign trade which
were to come with improved means of transportation
and the growth of manufactures and of shipping.
The condition of agriculture at the beginning of this
century is set forth by Purcell as follows (54) : ''Ameri-
can agriculture at the beginning of the nineteenth century
was inferior to that of England" (24, Vol. I) . "The small
free holder with fifty to one hundred and fift}' acres
could not afford to be progressive. Content with a
tolerable crop which covered local demand, he was con-
tented to scratch the top of an exha^usted soil with an an-
tiquated plow, sow home grown seed on unharrowed
fields and await the harvest. Indian corn, the staple crop,
was cultivated as the aborigines had taught the first
settlers, fertilized by white fish or sea weed."
''Small apple orchards furnished cider apples for cider
brandy," but not exclusively for brandy making. Cider
itself was a common, not to say an almost universal drink
348 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
in families and some good eating apples were also grown.
The housewife also made store of dried apples and apple
butter for winter use. In the aggregate, ''the production
of butter and cheese was large." "Sheep were of a mongrel
type producing little wool." "Oxen were used for heavy
work on the farm and horses chiefly for driving." "Swine
alone were considered up to the standard by foreign ob-
servers." "The fodder for livestock was insufficient; the
lack of nourishment coupled with imperfect shelter and
inattention to the principles of selection in breeding, had
caused a general degeneration in practically all kinds of
domestic animals." ^°
"In general the system of agriculture was not only ex-
tensive but even in many respects predatory : the farmers
had little stimulus to get anything beyond a living." "The
call for food supply in commercial towns can scarcely be
said to have had any influence on the prosperity of the
(farming) population or on farming methods in the
inland region." Trade and barter were generally prac-
ticed in the inland towns, to provide certain luxuries and
comforts which the farm could not supply, such as coffee,
tea, sugar and — let it be whispered — rum. As to the
markets for produce outside the State, there was a limited
trade with the City of New York, then of 100,000 in-
habitants, the southern states and the West Indies,
chiefly from the river and shore towns of Connecticut.
In the New York market there was competition with the
Dutch settlers on Long Island and the nearby New Jersey
and New York farmers. New Haven also shipped in the
coasting trade cheese, pork and hams, butter, lard and
cereals (8), the only vegetables being small amounts of
20 The situation is admirably set forth in detail in P. W. Bidwell's Rural
Economy in New England at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century. (8)
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 349
beans and potatoes, most being transhipped to the West
Indies. Other towns shared in this coastwise trade. The
Connecticut River and Long Island Sound furnished the
only convenient channels for moving the produce of Con
necticut to market. But these means for carrying and
trading in the products of the farm were entirely inade-
quate to serve the inland towns.
The public roads and highways were in wretched con-
dition, being generally in charge of incompetent mana-
gers and inefficient workmen who were either impressed
by the town or were "working out" their road tax. Co-
operation between towns and counties in laying out and
building highways was not always easy. In short, there
was neither adequate means of transporting farm prod-
uce from the inland producers to consumers, nor any
great demand for them. Connecticut had been, essentially
on a circular one track business. It might have suited a
literalist who could quote from the Scripture, "Having
therefore food and raiment let us be therewith content."
It may not be amiss to mention two traits which have
been commonly ascribed to the Connecticut Yankee and
which were developed in these many years of struggle
with adverse conditions. The first is a close and some-
tim.es parsimonious economy. Of this Horace Bushnell
wrote, "It was also a great point in this homespun mode
of life, that it imparted what many speak of only v/ith
contempt, a closely girded habit of economy.
Harnessed all together in the producing process, young
and old, male and female, from the boy that rode the
plow horse to the grandmother knitting under her spec-
tacles, they had no conception of squandering lightly what
they had all been at work, thread by thread, and grain
by grain to produce" (8). But along with this there was
350 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
also of necessity developed a spirit of comradeship and
an exercise of mutual helpfulness in all times of need;
for they were "members one of another."
Other traits ascribed to the Yankee were ingenuity and
resourcefulness. In an unsettled country, without di-
vision of labor, with almost no factories, the farmer had
to be his own mechanic, machinist and architect.
Inventiveness, which was at first a necessity in making
tools and appliances for his own house and farm, fostered
by the native mental alertment of the settler and the facili-
ties for general education, instantly applied itself to in-
vention and manufacturing as a separate business when
the political troubles of the early nineteenth century
stopped trade with the factories of the old world.
But here began a new agriculture.
In a century where the growth of knowledge of the
laws of nature and the art of bringing the work of the
world into co-operation with them, had been greater than
in all the world's previous history, it was inevitable that
agriculture, the basic industry of our people, should have
made rapid advances in methods ; in supplementing hand
labor by machinery, reducing the man power required on
the farm, facilitating transportation and trade, improv-
ing the quality of live stock and the types of cultivated
plants and restoring the fertility of soils, temporarily ex-
hausted by the rude agriculture of the previous centuries.
The course of Connecticut farming in this century may
be roughly divided into four periods. First, the period
of self sufficient economy, at its highest point of develop-
ment in the early years of the century. Second, the period
of transition to commercial agriculture — agriculture as
a business — due to the development of manufacturing
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 351
and foreign trade which involved a large non-farming
This lasted till near the middle of the century. Third,
the period in which Connecticut agriculture was greatly
depressed by western and later by southern competition.
Fourth, the period of abandonment of the less productive
lands and the unprofitable crops and more intensive pro-
duction of the very perishable farm products, fruit, vege-
tables, milk, etc., for consumption in adjacent cities.
Each of these periods has forced important changes in
the kind of farm products raised, a resulting loss of in-
vested capital and in some cases the abandonment of
farms and the desolation of rural communities.
These changes also wrought a diversification of farm-
ing, caused by differences of soil and climate, (there is
enough difference in the length of the growing season
between the northern and southern counties to affect
the yield of certain crops), opportunities of foreign trade,
etc. Thus at nearly the same time, horse and mule breed-
ing for the West India trade, was a paying business in
the eastern part of the State, in the northwest cheese
making was popular and profitable, while in New Haven
and specially in Fairfield Counties more flax and flax
seed were grown than in the whole of New England be-
The history of Connecticut agriculture in this century
is the history, not of the development of a single great
business like cattle or wheat growing, but of raising vari-
ous kinds of farm products, beef, dairying, special crops,
like flax, tobacco, onions, etc., at times promoted, at other
times depressed by wars, financial crises and the develop-
ment of competition with other places, largely caused by
352 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
the growth of transportation facilities and cheap western
In the eighteenth century, as we have noticed, trade
had begun, chiefly with the West Indies, but early in the
nineteenth century trade and commerce greatly expanded.
The north Atlantic states were the food states. The de-
mand for provisions, fresh, salted, pickled or dried, be-
sides livestock and naval stores, was great and trade with
the warring countries of Europe, as well as with the West
Indies was very profitable — and at times very risky. The
United States was the only constantly neutral country
with food to sell and ships to carry it and agriculture,
shipbuilding and trade greatly prospered for a time.
But from about 1807 to 1916 embargos, spoliations, non-
intercourse acts and war with Great Britain and all the
measures of other countries to impede our manufactures
and commerce, depressed farming in one direction and
caused a marvellous expansion of manufacturing. Some
capital had already been collected by commerce and an
intelligent and energetic labor force immediately pushed
the business of manufacture when European suppHes
were cut off and increased the demand for domestic
goods which grew in volume and lessened the number of
But it did not for some time greatly concentrate popu-
lation in manufacturing centers. In 1840 this State had
a population of 310,015. About one-sixth of them were
engaged in manufacture (not including farm produce,
butter and cheese, cutting lumber, etc.)
Boots and shoes were extensively made, but no shoe
factories are listed. The work was let out to be done in
families. There are 2,166 "factories" listed, but their
•size is shown by the fact that the average number of
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 353
hands in each of the 284 textile mills was thirty. Eighty-
seven different manufactures are listed and every town
had a considerable number. With all these factories only
29;000 tons of coal were used, small water powers, wood
and perhaps charcoal furnished the rest of the needed
power. It is obvious that many of the "manufacturers"
were also farmers to the extent of growing more or less
of their own food (66).
The factory system of England became established in
America in the second quarter of the nineteenth century
and the development of manufactures on a very large
scale has been since 1880 (9).
While the total population of the State was 2.2 times as
large in 1920 as in 1880, the population of eight of our
manufacturing towns was about 3.3 as large as it was
forty years ago and includes a little over half of the pop-
ulation of the State. In 1880 it included about one-third.
The agencies which helped to make the art of agricul-
ture more intelligent and productive by bringing to its aid
the results of farm experience here and elsewhere were
Farmers Organizations. Agricultural Societies.
These gatherings drew their members from the isolation
of their farm life, secured social intercourse, the exchange
of ideas and experience, instruction from agricultural
^^aders and by frequent shows and fairs promoted a
healthy emulation in crop and livestock production.
The agricultural societies were not meant to be just
clubs for the exchange of facts and personal farm experi-
ence, but included men of all professions who were to re-
ceive, adopt and spread the knowledge of the farming
progress of all countries. This they did in the earlier
354 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
years of the century, but later their chief activity was in
providing annual fairs or agricultural shows.
A "Society for Promoting Agriculture in the State of
Connecticut" was formed by persons from several towns,
at Wallingford, Aug. 12th. 1794 and a constitution was
adopted Nov, 11th, 1794. Its members were invited to
make experiments in the various departments of agri-
culture and the constitution of the Society contemplated
the free communication of that information. Many ex-
periments were made by the members themselves and
their observation was extended to the improvements of
their neighbors; the queries v/hich were framed by the
Society were distributed to stimulate a spirit of investi-
gation and the report of useful facts to the Society, that
they might be preserved for general use. Both oral and
written communications to the Society were encouraged
and the former committed to writing.
"This Society shall reject all doubtful or suspicious
facts in communications made to the Society." The
queries issued by the Society cover the whole range of
In its Transactions, published in New Haven, in 1802,
a considerable number of experiments are recorded,
chiefly with fertilizers and amendments and each article
is signed by the contributor. This Society was probably
the fifth of its kind to be organized in the United States.
Regarding it Prof. Brewer states that it met at various
places in New Haven County, but its influence extended
over other parts of the State. A new constitution was
adopted in 1803. A library was started in 1807. There
^- seems to be some confusion regarding the name of the
^ vSociety. In 1709 in the call for meetings it is named
"The Agricultural Society of the State of Connecticut."
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 355
From 1803 to 1818 it was called "The Society for Pro-
moting Agriculture in the State of Connecticut." But
when the Society applied for incorporation the General
Assembly was unwilling to grant this name, but granted
the name of "The Agricultural Society of New Haven."
At first many papers were read on agricultural topics
at its meetings which were quite regularly held and in
1813 it was "Resolved that a discourse be delivered be-
fore the Society at New Haven on the day following the
public Commencement of Yale College, at 11 A. M. an-
In 1819 apparently it began holding an agricultural
and manufacturing show in the county. In 1820 the presi-
dent of Yale College and the clergy of the county are
made honorary members of the Society.
A circular issued in 1840 speaks of a "revival" of the
Society and there are no records of meetings between
1822 and 1840. In 1841 the Transactions of this Society
and of the New Haven Horticultural Society were
printed in a pamphlet of 84 pages. The annual fairs were
revived and held for a time in the town which raised the
most money for the expenses of the fair. Thus in Water-
bury, in 1847, there were exhibited 1,300 head of horned
cattle of which 300 came from Watertown, and about
10,000 people attended the fair. In 1848 it was voted to
ask the General Assembly for an appropriation for a pro-
fessorship of agriculture in Yale College and Prof. J. P.
Norton was asked to deliver a lecture on agriculture be-
fore the Society during the next session of the Legislature
and that members of both houses be requested to attend.
The manuscript records of the Society end in 1860.
The Hartford Agricultural Society was founded and
incorporated in 1817, suspended in 1831, revived in 1840,
356 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
and in that year published a pamphlet of its Proceedings.
It held fairs from 1854 to 1857 and perhaps later. The
Horticultural Society of New Haven, organized in 1830,
incorporated in 1833, was intended to take the place of
the Agricultural Society of Connecticut, then moribund,
but later invigorated. The Society published reports in
pamphlet form with premium lists and occasional papers.
The Society still exists. Other agricultural societies were
established as follows: Litchfield County, about 1839;
Windham, Fairfield and Middlesex Counties in 1840. The
latter led a precarious life until 1851 when it became more
prosperous. Its reports were published in the Middle-
town papers. The Tolland County Society was established
in 1853 and the New London Society in 1854. The Green-
wood Agricultural Society was founded in the northern
part of Litchfield County, in 1844. In the same year
the Pomological Society of New Haven was established.
The Hartford Horticultural Society was organized in
1849. For a time it held weekly exhibits of fruits,
flowers and vegetables, from June to October.
But by the middle of the century most of these so-
cieties became dead and alive affairs, affected with sleep-
ing sickness (18), only waking at times to make an ex-
hibition, which was a kind of farm outing, reviving again
with some vigor, under the management of some ex-
ceptionally efficient officer, then dozing again, or splitting
up into smaller local groups.
But in 1852 H. A. Dyer prepared a bill which was
passed, incorporating The State Agricultural Society and
wrote its constitution which was adopted in June of that
year. The first annual meeting was held on Jan. 11th,
1854. The aim of the Society is thus explained: "The
Society seeks to disseminate a knowledge of agricultural
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 357
science among farmers by encouraging the institution of
clubs in the several towns where the experience of prac-
tical men may be gathered and the theories of scientific
men discussed and subjected to experiment by members.
The Society also recommends the use of elementary
science books in common schools, the preparation of
teachers in normal schools for instruction in these studies
and gathering the products of agriculture in this State
and bringing men together to enjoy an annual harvest
festival." There appears to have been a federation of
county agricultural societies, each of which chose a dele-
gate to sit as a member of the executive committee. The
first fair was held in New Haven in 1854 at which pre-
miums of $3,500 were offered. Subsequent fairs of this
Society were held annually in New Haven and Hartford
and one at least in Bridgeport.
From 1854 till 1S59 this Society printed a report of
its Transactions. It is said that these publications con-
tinued till 1867, but I have not been able to find them.
Besides some reports of the proceedings and fairs of the
other agricultural societies, they contain notable papers
on various agricultural subjects. For example, in 1855
Prof. John A. Porter offers a plan for an agricultural
school. In 1856 is a paper by T. S. Gold, The Natural
Flora of a District Indicates its Natural Capacity. The
first of Prof. S. W. Johnson's reports on Commercial
Fertilizers was published in the Transactions of 1856,
followed by further reports in the two following years.
In the report of 1858 he published an Essay on Peat,
Muck and Commercial Fertilizers which was the basis
of his book on Peat and its Uses, long the standard au-
thority on that subject. In 1856 there is an interesting
paper by H. A. Dyer on Tobacco.
358 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Probably one result of the discussions of these agri-
cultural societies was the testing of various old world
crops and plants; lucerne, vetches, spelt, rape, poppies,
madder, woad, etc., most of which were soon found to
be of little or no value in this State. Alfalfa and rape
still have consideration and occasional patches of alfalfa
still found in headlands and fence corners, are rehcs of
tests made long ago.
Incidentally should be mentioned the small local
"Farmers Clubs" which were most numerous in the last
quarter of the century and were to the neighborhood
what the Agricultural Society was to the county.
The first Farmers Club of which record is found was
organized in Middletown about 1842. It was to hold six
meetings between October and May. "No question is to
be discussed but such as shall immediately relate to agri-
Many of these agricultural societies still exist, but the
sole purpose of most of them is to hold an agricultural
fair each year, offering premiums which are paid in part
by a state appropriation.
(At this writing, 1924, thirty-nine fairs have assigned
dates for the present year.) The State Agricultural So-
ciety is still in existence and holds an annual show, but
it has greater influence in popularizing horse racing and
the attractions of a midway than in promoting agricul-
ture. Yet in the Fifties this society was very active and
became the forerunner of the State Board of Agriculture
which was for a long time the single rallying point of
The Board of Agriculture. This Board was in-
corporated by the General Assembly at the May session
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 359
of 1866. It was made up of the Governor, one person
appointed from each County by the agricuhural societies
which received an annual bounty from the State and four
appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate.
The Board met and organized on August 1st, 1866. The
Governor was elected president, E. H. Hyde, vice-presi-
dent and T. S. Gold, secretary. The Board was to in-
vestigate such subjects as it thought proper relating to
improvements in agriculture and horticulture, to investi-
:gate and regulate returns of Agricultural Societies and
make report on them and to inquire into the wants and
methods of practical husbandry, encouraging the estab-
lishment of farmers clubs, agricultural libraries and
reading rooms, and to disseminate useful informa-
tion in agriculture, by means of lectures and otherwise.
The first of its public meetings was held Jan. 8, 9, and 10,
1867, in New Haven.
The Board of Agriculture proved to be the organiza-
tion which was most needed and most effective in pro-
tQoting all agricultural interests.
Its annual meetings brought together all the leading
experts in agricultural science, the leaders in agricultural
practice within the State and large numbers of interested
farmers. The latest work of experimenters, the wisest
experience of practical farmers, discussion, and oppor-
tunity for questioning by anyone in the audience — all
these things gave tremendous interest and importance to
the meetings and particular value to the reports of them.
The meetings of this Board were also the birthplace
of legislation in the interest of agriculture and of agri-
cultural institutions like the Connecticut Agricultural
Station, The Storrs Agricultural Station, the Storrs
Agricultural School and the Connecticut Agricultural
360 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
College. All these projects were discussed in advance
in the winter meetings and the opinion of the farming
"In no other state," said Prof. Atwater "has so much
been done for the application of chemistry to agriculture
as has been done in Connecticut through the agency of
the Board of Agriculture."
It would carry us too far to recite the subjects treated
at these meetings which have been held annually, with
possibly one exception, ever since. It is certain that the
reports of proceedings in the earlier years are everywhere
regarded as the most valuable of all similar reports and
have been of the greatest help in the improvement of
Connecticut farming. Especial praise is due to the serv-
ice rendered by T. S. Gold, the secretary of the Board
during a long series of years, for his most wise and effi-
cient management of the meetings.
The Board was abolished by resolution of the General
Assembly on July 21st, 1870, but in 1871 The State
Board of Agriculture was again incorporated by the same
body. The new act of incorporation is quite like the old
except that wider powers were conferred on the board.
The Board could quarantine animals having infectious
diseases, enter premises where such diseases were present
or suspected and make necessary regulations to prevent
a spread of the disease and to appoint three commissioners
on diseases of domestic animals and delegate to them the
powers of the Board. The Board elected besides a presi-
dent, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, a veterinary
surgeon, entomologist, botanist and chemist. Thus con-
stituted, the Board continued to be active in providing
for discussions of agricultural improvement and for in-
formation both from scientific experts and from leaders
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 361
in agricultural practice. In 1897 the Assembly reor-
ganized the Board, providing that its eight members
should be appointed by the Assembly, one from each
county, rather than as before, by the agricultural so-
cieties of the State.
Two offshoots of the Board have had a very vigorous
and helpful life : On April 10th, 1889, was incorporated
the Connecticut Dairymen's Association. A brief report
of its meeting in January, 1892, 25 pages, states that this
is the eleventh annual meeting.
It then had 45 life members and 43 annual members.
It must therefore have been in existence for eight years
before its incorporation.
It has yearly held a general meeting of dairymen and
has published valuable annual reports. It has also held
dairy institutes and farm meetings about the State. In
1900 it had 99 life members and 69 annual members.
The Board of Agriculture had a pomologist and at its
annual meetings were many discussions of interest to
orchardists ; but as fruit growing increased in importance
within the State, the growers desired more opportunity
for discussion and promotion of their interests.
A convention of fruit growers, called in 1891, or-
ganized the Connecticut Pomological Society. This So-
ciety, which in 1923 numbered 483 members, has for
many years held annual meetings with fruit exhibits
which are largely attended, frequent field meetings dur-
ing the summers and farm institutes in all parts of the
State. It has been the chief agency in promoting the in-
terests of fruit growers.
The Cream Hill Agricultural School. The use-
fulness of technical schools of agriculture was anticipated
long before their establishment. A debate in Yale Col-
362 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
lege in 1789 is noted on the question : ''Whether it would
be best to introduce agriculture into colleges as a classical
In 1832 an effort was made to establish The Litchfield
Agricultural High School and the corporation of Goshen
Academy was asked to turn over the Academy to the
promoters of the scheme, but they were refused and the
plan failed (29). In 1842 the Connecticut Farmers Ga-
zette announced that Rev. J. B. Noble proposes soon to
open an agricultural institute in Bridgeport. No further
notice of it has been found.
Three years later, in 1845, The Cream Hill Agricul-
tural School was established at West Cornwall and con-
ducted by Dr. S. L. Gold, for years the principal physi-
cian in Goshen, who had recently removed to his farm in
West Cornwall, and his son, Theodore S. Gold, (Yale,
1838), who, throughout his long life was an inspiring
leader in the promotion of Connecticut agriculture. The
prospectus of the school is in part :
"The plan of this institution is to receive a select and
limited number of pupils, under the superintendence of
well qualified teachers, to be fitted for college, or any of
the useful pursuits of life.
"This school embraces two important departments of
instruction. First: Thorough attention to the various
elementary and scientific branches taught at the best
academic institutions. Second : Both scientific and prac-
tical instructions in Agriculture and Horticulture, em-
bracing the most approved method of tillage, rearing of
stock, cultivation of trees, the laying out of grounds, or-
namental gardening, chemical analysis of soils, composts,
etc. A portion of each day will be allotted to these sub-
jects, so that the pupil may become a scientific and prac-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 363
tical farmer. The farm, containing 200 acres, with con-
venient buildings, situated on Cream Hill, surrounded by
a picturesque country scenery, furnishes a location un-
rivalled for healthfulness and freedom from immoral ten-
dencies and peculiarly fitted for such an institution.
"The Housatonic railroad furnishes daily access to
New York. The students will become members of the
family of the instructors. A parental supervision will at
all times be exercised over each individual.
"All will be treated with kindness and every attention
rendered, with affectionate regard to health, deportment
"The institution will be conducted by Samuel L. Gold,
Theodore S. Gold and Thomas R. Button. There will be
two terms in each year; the first commencing the first
Wednesday in May, and terminating the first Wednes-
day in November; the second from the first Wednesday
in December to the first Wednesday in April.
"Terms : The pupils will be furnished with tuition,
board, fuel, lights, washing, privileges of the library and
riding, at $200 a year, one-half to be paid at the beginning
of each term.
"West Cornwall, Conn. March 31, 1845."
In all, 272 pupils attended this school from its opening
in 1845 until it was closed in 1869 on account of the
pressure of other business. It opened with ten pupils.
After that the number ranged from twelve to thirty-one,
an average of more than twenty-two, probably all that the
accommodations would permit. ^^
21 Prof. George J. Brush was one of the earliest students. He planned to
enter a commercial establishment in New York City but here acquired an
interest in chemistry and particularly in mineralogy the pursuit of which
became his lifework until overshadowed by his administrative work as
Director of the Sheffield Scientific School and the Agricultural College of
364 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
From the catalogue of 1849 we learn "Each pupil cul-
tivates a garden of about 130 square yards; is instructed
in laying out, planting and the application of manures.
Small premiums are awarded for the best gardens. Ample
opportunity is afforded each to acquire a knowledge of
general farming, tending and rearing the various kinds
of stock, etc."
There is nothing in the catalogues to show any list of
Mr. Button dropped out soon after the school was es-
tablished and most, if not all, instruction was given by
Dr. Gold and his son.
The Storrs Agricultural School. In January,
1881 Messrs. Augustus and Charles Storrs offered to the
vState 180 acres of land and various buildings in the town
of Mansfield for the purpose of establishing and main-
taining an agricultural school. The buildings had been
used previously as a home and school for the orphans of
soldiers in the Civil War. The offer was accepted and the
Storrs School was established.
Its object, as set forth in the act of establishment, was
"The education of boys ... in such branches of scien-
tific knowledge as shall tend to increase their proficiency
in the business of agriculture."
A part of their time was to be spent in classroom work
and a part in the practical work of the farm. The school
continued for twelve years with fair success. During this
time its attendance ranged from 40 to 63. In 1893, by
act of the Assembly, its purpose was changed and it was
renamed The Storrs Agricultural College.
The Agricultural and Mechanical College of
Connecticut. In 1840 Justus von Liebig issued his
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 365
work on Chemistry in its Relations to Agriculture which
started a great agricultural revolution and drew the at-
tention of chemists throughout the world to the prob-
lems of plant production.
Between 1840 and 1850 Prof. Silliman at Yale gave
instruction in these matters. In 1846 John P. Norton,
the son of a Connecticut farmer, after training as a
farmer and some years of study at Yale and at Boston
and later in Scotland, (where he won a prize of fifty
sovereigns, given by the Highland Society of Scotland
for the best essay on the oat plant), opened a laboratory
at Yale in connection with Silliman "for the purpose of
practical instruction in the applications of science to the
arts and agriculture."
This was the beginning of the Sheffield Scientific
School which first gave the degree of Ph. B. in 1851.
Here Prof. Johnson studied and began the analysis of
commercial fertilizers and detection of frauds in their
sale, and for many years this was the only place connected
with any college in America where that means of pro-
tecting farmers was systematically followed.
Norton, whose work was cut short by tuberculosis, was
succeeded by Prof. John A. Porter.
In the meantime Joseph E. Sheffield made a gift of
$50,000 for the endowment of the School and during the
rest of his life gave from ten thousand to twenty thousand
dollars yearly to its support and made it as one of his
children in the final division of his estate. In all he must
have given more than a million dollars to its support.
Under the management of Prof. Norton there was
given the first course of Yale Agricultural Lectures,
The views in which this course originated are given by
which began Feb. 1, 1860, and closed Feb. 25.
366 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Prof. Porter as follows : The importance of new agencies
for the diffusion of agricultural knowledge is emphasized.
"Shall we wait for the establishment by government
of great agricultural institutions, similar to those in Eu-
rope? Such institutions are the most obvious and essen-
tial wants of our times, but a public and general opinion
of their utility and necessity must be created before either
our state or national governments will seriously consider
Porter proposes "the enlistment of practical men, who
are not professional teachers, in the work of instruction
and their combination in such numbers, that a small con-
tribution of time and labor from each shall make a suffi-
cient aggregate to meet the object in view."
The experiment was made under the auspices of the
Yale Scientific School. At this course of lectures about
350 students were registered and some 500 in attendance ;
172 from Connecticut, 23 from Massachusetts, 35 from
New York and a smaller number from 13 other states.
Three lectures were given daily, morning, afternoon
and evening. The subjects and lectures were :
Agricultural Chemistry Prof. S. W. Johnson
Entomology Dr. Asa Fitch of New York
Vegetable Physiology Daniel C. Eaton
Vegetable Pathology Chauncey E. Goodrich
Pear Culture Marshall P. Wilder
Grapes Dr. C. W. Grant
Berries R. G. Pardee
Fruit Trees P. Barry
Fruits Lewis F. Allen
Arboriculture Geo. B. Emerson
The Honey Bee Mr. Ouimby
Drainage Henry F. French
Grasses .- John S. Gould
Agricultural Associations Mason C. Weld
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 367
Cereals Joseph Harris
Root Crops T. S. Gold
Tobacco and Hops W. H. Brewer
Sandy Soils Levi Bartlett
English Agriculture L. H. Tucker
Profits of American Farming Josiah Quincy, Jr.
Cattle Cassius M. Clay
Stock Breeding in the United States Lewis F. Allen
The Dairy Charles L. Flint
Horses Sanford Howard
Breeding and Training Horses Dr. D. F. Gulliver
Sheep T. S. Gold
The course proved to be very popular and stimulated
the desire for regular courses of agricultural instruction.
"Mr. Barry whitling at his pear tree before the audience
is worth a whole treatise on grafting and pruning. Mr.
Gold's discourse on sheep, interspersed with the bleating
of his Cotswolds and punctuated with the black noses of
his Southdowns, is worth a volume on mutton and wool.""
This Institute was not continued. In the next year
the outbreak of the Civil War made it seem unwise at that
time and the establishment of the Agricultural College
later made it less needed. But there is much evidence
that greatly increased interest in scientific agriculture
immediately followed. "In concluding, Mason Weld
strongly advocated the establishment at once of an agri-
cultural farm in connection with a thoroughly furnished
laboratory, referring to the debt the world owes Lawes
and Gilbert for their experiments at Rothamstead and to
the weighty results developed by the investigations in
France and Germany which latter country has now in
operation more than forty experiment stations under the
22 Brief abstracts of these lectures are given in the New England Home-
stead for the year 1860.
368 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
management of competent men of science in connection
with practical farmers."
Two years later the Morrill Act was passed by Con-
gress which provided for the establishment of an Agri-
cultural College in every state.
By this act a grant of public land was made to each
state for "the endowment, support and maintenance of
at least one college where the leading object shall be,
without excluding other scientific and classical studies,
and including military tactics, to teach such branches of
learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic
arts in such manner as the legislatures of the states may
respectively prescribe in order to promote the liberal and
practical education of the industrial classes in the several
pursuits and professions of life."
The yearly grant to Connecticut yielded an income of
only six or seven thousand dollars — a rather scanty sum
for the establishment of an institution which should meet
the requirements of the act.
Yale College was the only institution which was at all
capable of using the grant. It was already equipped for
such work and was giving instruction in all the branches
of study required under the act except in military tactics.
The state having accepted the grant, in 1863 gave the
income to the Yale corporation to be devoted to the sup-
port of the Sheffield Scientific School for the maintenance
of such instruction as shall carry out the intent of Con-
The School was to furnish gratuitous tuition to such
a number of pupils that their tuition, charged at the usual
rate, would equal one-half of the income of the fund. The
award of these scholarships was made by a committee,
whose appointment was provided in the act.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 369
The State made a perpetual contract with Yale College
and established it as the Agricultural and Mechanical
College of the State, but contributed nothing more to its
support. The government fund was, however, supple-
mented by generous gifts from Joseph E. Sheffield as
has been noted on a previous page. In 1890 Congress
passed an act for the more complete endowment of the
Agricultural Colleges by which they eventually received
an additional sum of $25,000 annually. At this time there
were eighty students in the Sheffield School on the agri-
As soon as this appropriation was made, various col-
leges of agriculture and the mechanic arts were bitterly
attacked on the ground that they were not fulfilling the
object of their existence and were maintaining colleges
of too high grade and unsuitable requirements for the
sons of farmers. As a consequence of this movement the
General Assembly in 1893 transferred the government
fund to the Storrs Agricultural School in the town of
Mansfield, at the same time changing its name to the
Storrs Agricultural College.
A commission appointed to decide on the nature of the
contract between the State and the Sheffield School
awarded the latter $154,000 damages on account of the
violation of the perpetual contract by the State. The
Storrs Agricultural College had at this time an enroll-
ment of about one hundred students and its courses were
officially opened to women. In 1889 the name of the in-
stitution was changed to the Connecticut Agricultural
The College now has an attendance in all departments
of 484. Its activities fall into three divisions; the Resi-
370 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
dent Instruction, the Storrs Agricultural Station and the
Extension Service which are noticed later.
The Resident Instruction offers:
1. A four year course in Agriculture leading to the
bachelor's degree. Graduates of high schools, accredited
by the State Board of Education are entitled to enter this
2. A four year course in Home Economics, for young
women, leading to the bachelor's degree. Open to grad-
uates of high schools as above.
3. A two year course in Agriculture, divided into
four ten-week terms. Open to those who have had a
common school education. Those completing the four
terms' work are given a diploma.
4. A summer school in Home Economics for those
who desire teacher training in that subject.
5. Short course in Agriculture is given to men and
women of the State who can be away from home duties
for a short time only.
Agricultural Extension Work —
County Farm Bureaus
On May 8, 1914 a national system of co-operative ex-
tension work in agriculture and home economics was pro-
vided by the so-called Smith-Lever bill. By it Congress
appropriated $480,000, providing an annual increase for
eight years until the total sum annually appropriated
reached $4,580,000. Congress has since appropriated an
additional $1,300,000 for the same purpose as the Smith-
Lever fund and a further appropriation of about $1,300,-
000 for co-operative demonstration work.
In order to secure Federal Smith-Lever funds, the
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 371
several states must appropriate an equal amount for the
support of extension work.
These funds are divided between the states on a basis
of their rural population. Under these several acts Con-
necticut receives $68,950.09 from Federal funds which
is supplemented by appropriations from the State amount-
ing at this date to $75,000 annually.
The Extension Service is, therefore, part of a national
system of agricultural education estabHshed by Federal
laws. It is a division of the Agricultural College which
is carrying information and instruction in improved
methods of farming and home making to the people of
the State, through demonstrations, meetings, letters, news
stories, campaigns, field trips and farm and home visits.
Further than this it is the work of the extension service
to interest farmers and home makers in putting these
improved methods into practice. It is concerned as much
with assisting in solving the problems of marketing as
it is with solving the problems of production.
The extension work is carried on by a staff of men and
women. Some of these are specialists in the various
branches of agriculture and home making, such as dairy-
ing, fruit growing, poultry raising, nutrition, clothing,
etc., who work throughout the .State and have headquar-
ters at Storrs. The other extension workers are county
representatives of the Extension Service and are known
as County Agents, doing work in agriculture with adults ;
Home Demonstration Agents, working with women on
home problems; and County Club Agents, the latter
carrying work with boys and girls, commonly known as
Practically all the work is carried out in conjunction
with the county workers. The Extension service reaches
372 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
the entire family; men, women, boys and girls. The
specialist studies the industry which he represents, in
order to learn its problems and recommends the improve-
ments which should be encouraged and the methods which
should be used in extension teaching. Co-operating with
the Extension Service are the County Farm Bureaus in
each county, supported by membership fees, voluntary
contributions and when these amount to $1,000, by grants
from the college and State. In 1921 seven Farm Bureaus
formed a state federation and through it joined the Amer-
ican Farm Bureau Federation, a national organization,
maintaining a representative in Washington and interest-
ing itself in legislative questions which affect the farming
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment
Station. The object in establishing this station was to
apply the methods of scientific research in solving those
problems of the farm which needed the time, equipment
and technical knowledge which the farmer himself could
Connecticut was the first State to establish such a
station after many years of effort to convince the public
of the need.
The demonstration which Connecticut made of its value
quickly induced other states to create similar stations and
now they are found in every state, territory and insular
possession of the United States.
A brief notice of the development of the idea for
twenty years from the early fifties is interesting. In 1853
and the following years, articles by Prof. S. W. Johnson
of the Sheffield Scientific School, published in the Country
Gentleman, discussed the contributions of science to agri-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 373
culture, the feeding of farm animals, food for plants,
superphosphate of lime, etc., calling attention to the ap-
plications of science to agriculture and perhaps for the
first time in this country, to the quality of commercial
fertilizers. Such fertilizers were then, for the first time
coming into common use, extravagant claims for their
virtues were often made and no knowledge of their com-
position given; there was danger of too much faith in
their virtues and too little knowledge of their proper use.
In 1856 Johnson's exposures of fraud in fertilizers led
to his appointment as chemist of the Connecticut Agri-
cultural Society and the continuance of his work on that
A lecture on ''The Relations which Exist between Sci-
ence and Agriculture," delivered in Albany, in 1856 and
published in the Transactions of the New York State
Agricultural Society, excited wide interest and discus-
sion. There followed almost twenty years of preaching
and teaching by Johnson on the need of applying to the
art of agriculture the teachings of natural science. His
laboratory work as chemist of the State Board of Agri-
culture and the publication of its results in the annual re-
ports stirred the desire of farmers to enlist the aid of
research in the every day work of the farm.
Important in this educational work were his two books,
How Crops Grow. A Treatise on the Chemical Composi-
tion, Structure and Life of the Plant, for all Students of
Agriculture; published in 1868, and How Crops Feed,
A Treatise on the Atmosphere and the Soil as Related to
the Nutrition of Agricultural Plants, published in 1870.
His object, as stated by himself, was "to digest the cum-
brous mass of evidence in which the truths of vegetable
nutrition lie buried out of the reach of the ordinary in-
374 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
quirer and to set them forth in proper order and in plain
dress for their legitimate and sober uses."
At the instance of von Liebig the book was translated
into German by his son. It was reprinted in England,
translated into Italian, Russian, Swedish and Japanese
for use as a textbook in those countries.
Two Connecticut men, Jared Eliot in the eighteenth
and S. W. Johnson in the nineteenth century wrote books
on scientific agriculture, which probably had the widest
influence on farming in America of any during this
In 1873 Prof. W. O. Atwater of Wesleyan University,
a former pupil and assistant of Johnson's, joined in
urging the establishment in the State of an Agricultural
Experiment Station and in their addresses before the
Board of Agriculture and frequent gatherings of farmers
through the State emphasized the advantage and need of
applying to the art of farming the teachings of natural
science and the wisdom of providing an agency whereby
the problems of the farm, which the farmer had neither
the time, the facilities, or the expert knowledge to solve
for himself, could be studied and possibly solved by ex-
perts in an institution specially fitted for this purpose.
In 1874 the Board of Agriculture, at the recommenda-
tion of a committee through its chairman, Prof. Johnson
appointed a permanent committee to urge on farmers and
the Legislature the immediate establishment of an agri-
cultural station. Later this committee reported that a
bill for this purpose had been introduced into the General
Assembly, held by the committee of the Assembly till
near the close of the session and then reported, recom-
.mending that it be laid over to the next session.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 375
Again in the Assembly of 1875 the attempt was made
But Mr. Orange Judd, an agricultural editor and a
trustee of Wesleyan University, urged the formation of
an association to provide money for an agricultural sta-
tion by private subscription, a plan which was contrary
to the wishes of the committee of the Board of Agricul-
ture. He however, secured the passage of the following
resolution in the spring of 1875, thus establishing in Con-
necticut the first Agricultural Experiment Station in
To Promote Agricultural Interests
Whereas, The trustees of the university at Middle-
town tender the free use of laboratories and other facili-
ties for establishing and carrying on an experiment sta-
tion for the general benefit and improvement of agricul-
ture and kindred interests of the State of Connecticut,
Resolved by this Assembly, That the sum of seven
hundred dollars per quarter for two years, is hereby ap-
propriated to the University located at Middletown,
Middlesex County, to be used in employing competent
scientific men to carry on the work appropriate to an
In addition to this appropriation Mr. Judd subscribed
one thousand dollars. A very full and admirable account
of the whole movement is given in "From the Letter
Files of S. W. Johnson," edited by his daughter, Eliza-
beth A. Osborne.
This station was under the exclusive control of the
trustees of Wesleyan University and an impression,
2>76 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
founded upon Mr. Judd's utterances and personal atti-
tude was widespread that the purpose of this station was
for the analysis of commercial fertilizers alone. Such
however, was not at all the position of Prof. Atwater,
who was chosen as its director. In his first report he
says : "It has been felt from the first that more abstract
scientific investigation would afford not only the proper,
but also the most widely and permanently useful work
of an agricultural station. Such an institution will be
worthy of the name in proportion as it carries on accurate
and thorough investigation and experiment in agricul-
But to prove to the farming public the present need of
an agricultural station and thus to secure for it a firmer
and more liberal basis, stress was first laid on the situa-
tion of the fertilizer trade — a continuation of Johnson's
work — in which there was "bitter need" of a better con-
dition. In the two following years a large part of the
station time was devoted to the examination of fertilizers.
Some examinations of dairy feed were also made, the
testing of agricultural seeds, effects of nitrogenous fer-
tilizers on the growth of corn, a study of the fertilizer
needs of the soil of the Wallingford plains, etc.
A prominent feature of the station work was co-op-
erative experiments with fertilizers on lands in different
parts of the State and later, under Prof. Atwater's di-
rections, in several other States, the results of which were
printed in the reports of the State Board of Agriculture,
from 1877 to 1881. Thus a new agency for the advance
of agriculture was founded and the example was speedily
followed by some other States.
Five, at least of Prof. Atwater's assistants in this work
soon became workers and leaders in other places ; W. Bal-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE Z77
lentine, Professor of Agriculture in the Maine Agricul-
tural College; E. H. Jenkins, chemist and later director
of the Connecticut station; W. H. Jordan, director of
the Maine and then for many years director of the New
York, (Geneva) station; A. T. Neale, director of the
New Jersey and later of the Delaware station and C. D.
Woods, director of the Maine station.
Before the appropriation for the station had expired
the General Assembly passed "An Act Establishing the
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station," "for the
purpose of promoting agriculture by scientific investiga-
tion and experiment," and granted $5,000 annually to its
support. In its organization this station differs from all
others. Besides having no organic connection with any
agricultural College it is an independent unit having most
of the rights of a corporation, with power to sue and be
sued, to receive gifts and to hold property. It is managed
by a Board of Control, consisting of the Governor, two
appointed by the Governor and one each by the State
Board of Agriculture, the State Agricultural Society,
Wesleyan University and the Sheffield Scientific School.
The director is ex ojfi.cio a member. Prof. Johnson was
chosen director and the station was placed at New Haven.
As it was not possible to secure permanent quarters from
the fund appropriated, the Sheffield Scientific School gave
the free use of laboratory and office room until 1882
when the State provided land and buildings which the
station has occupied ever since. In 1887 the first Federal
aid was given to the stations of the United States by the
Hatch Act which ultimately provided $15,000 to each
state to be by the state paid to such institution as it might
designate, the "object and duty of the station" being to
conduct original researches or verify experiments on the
378 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
physiology of animals and plants. The General Assembly
gave one-half of this fund to the Connecticut Station and
half to the newly established Storrs Agricultural Station
to be noticed later.
In 1896, by the Adams Act of Congress, $15,000 ad-
ditional was given to each state and this sum was likewise
equally divided between the two Connecticut stations.
This appropriation was to be used only for pure re-
search work, a restriction which has greatly helped the
more fundamental v/ork of all the stations. The appro-
priations by the State to the Connecticut station gradually
increased as the scope of its work and the demands made
upon it have grown. A very brief notice of some of its
labors should here be given to indicate the scope and
nature of it.
It taught and proved by field trials the value of spray-
ing for the protection of field crops and orchards from
fungi and insects.
It has studied the life history of each new insect and
fungus pest as it has appeared and the best methods of
fighting it; the San Jose scale, the gyps}^ moth, the pine
blister rust, the elm leaf beetle, etc.
It has directed the work of mosquito elimination and
accomplished much with the insufficient means at its dis-
By its inspection and reports it has exposed the frauds
in food and fertilizers and drove most of them out of the
State before the Federal Government undertook any of
As a part of that work it has examined all the special
foods made and recommended for diabetic patients and
the reports on them are the standard reference for spe-
cialists in the treatment of this disease.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 379
The long" continued and fruitful researches of Dr. Os-
borne have identified and showed the ultimate and struc-
tural composition and properties of the principal vege-
An inquiry into their relative nutritive value has led
to extensive studies in nutrition, has perfected a new
and most fruitful method of experiment in this field, has
led to the discovery of vitamines and studies of their func-
tion and to medical studies on the cause of rickets, infer-
The study of plant breeding here has shown the futility
of certain recommended methods of inbreeding and selec-
tion and by methods first adopted here has produced new
and improved strains of corn and tobacco and has demon-
strated methods of developing superior strains of field
crops which have secured general recognition.
It substituted for the very unfair method of payment
of cream by the space, the Babcock method of determin-
ing and paying for butter fat only, by adapting it for
cream gathering creameries and proving its value.
It made, at the request of dairymen, a comparison of
economy between the gravity and the separator systems
of raising cream for butter making creameries.
It introduced into the State the successful growing of
shade tobacco and the method of fermentation in bulk
and by its very elaborate field tests with fertilizers has
greatly advanced the tobacco growing industry in the
The station established an experimental forest for the
study of forest problems, aided in the planting of private
and corporation forests, besides giving advice by ad-
dresses and field demonstrations in the management of
the farmer's wood lot.
380 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
These illustrations, by no means a summary, give some
idea of the range of the station's work and show how it
has gradually become a public service agency. While de-
signed solely for the benefit of agriculture and while its
main effort is directed to that end, circumstances have
drawn it in several directions into the service of the whole
The station has also from its staff, furnished teachers
and research men to other states and institutions. Some
of them are :
H. P. Armsby, Professor of Agricultural Chemistry
in the University of Wisconsin, Director of the Pennsyl-
vania Station and later Director of the Pennsylvania Bu-
reau of Animal Nutrition.
E. M. East, Professor of Genetics in Harvard Uni-
W. Mulford, Professor of Forestry, University of
S. W. Spring, Professor of Forestry, Cornell Uni-
R. Thaxter, Professor of Cryptogamic Botany, Har-
H. L. Wells, Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Yale
E. H. Farrington, Professor of Dairy Husbandry,
Wisconsin Agricultural College.
The Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station.
In accepting the provisions of the Federal Hatch Act the
General Assembly provided that "the farm attached to
the Storrs Agricultural School may be used as an experi-
mental farm for the purposes specified" in the Federal
act and also provided that one-half of the Federal ap-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 381
propriation which came to the State should be used by the
trustees of the school under the provisions of the act.
Prof. W. O. Atwater was chosen director and during
the eighteen years of his service, the field and farm work
of the station was done at the Storrs Agricultural School
and the more purely scientific investigations were carried
on in the laboratories of Wesleyan University. In 1903
the station w^as reorganized and its office was removed to
Storrs where a small building was erected for its use.
Prof. Atwater resigned his office and Prof. L. A, Clinton
became his successor.
Perhaps the most striking work of this station up to
this time was that of Atwater and Woods which proved
the assimilation of free nitrogen by leguminous crops. It
is believed that this work, done in 1881 and 1882 supplied,
by convincing evidence, the first proof of this function of
the legumes. It was reported briefly at the meeting of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science
in 1881 and at the meetings of the American and British
Associations in 1882, and in detail in the American
Chemical Journal in 1885. Before the latter date the
more elaborate work of European investigators on the
same subject was published in scientific journals.
The studies on the composition and value of foods for
human populations on w^hich Atwater was engaged in
1877, the introduction of the bomb calorimeter about
1890, of a respiration calorimeter in 1896, studies of di-
etaries with determination of energy values, digestion ex-
periments with animals, (1896), mark the beginning in
this country of the studies of foods and the food require-
ments of populations which now fill a large place in the
public regard and found a very special value in the world
war. Much of this work, reported in the publications of
382 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
the Storrs station was done with funds contributed by
various outside institutions and individuals. It was not
until 1895 that the State appropriated $1,800 yearly for
studies of food economy and the bacteria of milk.
The studies of bacteria in relation to dairy practice, be-
gan at the station in 1888 by Dr. H. W. Conn and carried
on by him and his assistants into the next century, and
the introduction of the covered milk pail have been of
great educational value to the dairymen and the public and
have laid the foundation of the improvement in the sani-
tary quality of milk produced and sold in this State.
The nutrition studies of the station were discontinued
with the removal to Storrs, but the bacterial studies on
dairy products were continued.
The field tests of fertilizers in all parts of the State, be-
gun in 1875 were continued until into the next century.
Of importance was also an extensive study of the com-
position and fertilizer value of the roots and stubble of
The work in poultry, intensively carried on soon after
1900, has determined the nature and cause of bacillary
diarrhoea in poultry and shown the effective means for
The use of pigmentation and other criteria for select-
ing laying hens has resulted in extensive rejection of un-
profitable birds and consequent reduction of the cost of
The studies of the factors affecting artificial incuba-
tion, of the egg production of different breeds, and of the
means of controlling parasites of poultry, have all con-
tributed much to the profit of poultry raising.
The studies of infectious abortion, still in progress,
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 383
have already thrown much light on this obscure and very-
A comparative test of the yield of the chief varieties
of corn grown in the State, made in co-operation with the
Connecticut station, and continued for nine years has in-
dicated which varieties are on the average the most pro-
ductive and which are best adapted to the different sec-
tions of the State.
This statement is made merely to give an impression
but no complete statement of the range of the station's
Among those who have been on the station staff and
have since served important agricultural interests may be
mentioned, W. A. Stocking, Jr., now professor of dairv
bacteriology in Cornell University; Dr. Charles Thom,.
for years assigned to the station as mycologist by the
U. S. Department of Agriculture, who was later chief
mycologist of that Department; Dr. H. W. Conn, bac-
teriologist, a professor at Wesleyan University, chief of
the State Board of Health laboratory and a leading dairy
bacteriologist; C. L. Beach, formerly professor of dairy
husbandry at the station, then at the University of Ver-
mont and now president of the Connecticut Agricultural
The Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry is an agency
which has helped to increase agricultural knowledge in
less formal ways than those already cited as well as to
promote social intercourse among farmers.
The National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry
was organized Dec. 4, 1867. The founders "looked for
advantages to come to the farmers through social and in-
tellectual intercourse, not through political action."
The first local grange was organized in Washington,
384 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
D. C, its members being largely government clerks and
employees. It was a weak organization until 1871 but the
panic of 1873 which fell on farmers with great severity,
greatly increased the grange activity and led to the wild
"granger" legislation at the west. In that year granges
were formed in all but four states, of which Connecticut
was one. The organization was at its maximum in 1875
when the membership was probably over one million, but
interest declined till in 1880 there were only 4,000 active.
The State grange in Connecticut was organized, April
15, 1875 but was not successful till about 1885 when a
new State grange was organized at South Glastonbury.
In that year there were sixteen granges in the State. But
the order grew rapidly. In 1892 there were eight Pomona
granges, 146 subordinate granges with 10,000 members.
From about that time the numbers decreased. Of 155
granges organized in Connecticut since the beginning
twenty per cent have died.
The grange in Connecticut has never been very suc-
cessful as a co-operative agency in marketing, nor has it
assumed political activity as a distinct party element. It
has been of very considerable value, however, in the way
contemplated by the founders noted above. It has pro-
moted social intercourse, mental improvement and exer-
cise in public speaking and writing.
It has drawn many from the isolation of their farms
into intercourse with a wider social circle, before the days
of improved roads, automobiles and by them the possi-
bility of sharing in the attractions of the city, lessened
the popularity and the need of the grange.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 385
The Development of Agricultural Tools
"The nineteenth century witnessed greater improve-
ments in agricuhural methods and machinery than any
— if not all — the centuries that had gone before." At
its beginning all agricultural tools were of the rudest
kind, designed almost wholly for hand labor and either
made on the farm with the aid of the blacksmith or of
some local carpenter. No two were exactly alike.
Thus up to 1790 wheat was sown by hand, cut with a
sickle, thrashed and winnowed by hand (66). The cradle
scythe was in common use before the beginning of the
century and Brewer states that between the time of the
declaration of independence and the introduction of the
cast iron plow, some fifty years later, the most important
improvements in agricultural machinery were the Ameri-
can cradle and the fanning mill for cleaning grain and
The plow was a very clumsy affair, with a mould board
hewn from wood, protected from wear by old scraps of
sheet iron or tin nailed to it.
The share was generally of iron with a hardened point.
The beam was a straight stick with upright handles cut
from branches of trees.
A powerful man was needed to hold it and twice the
draft required for a modern plow. Ex-president Jefferson
first laid down the mathematical principles by which
mould boards could be made by anyone with the certainty
of all being effective and alike. His ideas were put in
practice about 1793. Charles Newbold of New Jersey
made the first cast-iron plow in the country, all cast in
one piece, which was patented in 1 797.
But for a long time a farm tradition, which seems to
386 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
have been imported from England, that the iron plow
"kills the life of the land" hindered its general use. Corn
land was thought to be specially injured by it and wooden
plows were used by some farmers for plowing corn land,
long after they were discarded for other uses.
"This ol' motor plow," said Kipling's bailiff not long
ago, "may be all right in Ameriky, but it don't turn the
earth not a spit deep — 'taint no good for the honor of the
land." These traditions, foolish as they may seem, are
yet signs of that care, love and almost reverence for the
soil, "The honor of the soil," which was ingrained in our
English forbears and happily runs in some measure in
the blood of their descendants and which is now leading
the most progressive back to more careful study of the
nature of the soil itself and the methods of caring for it.
For soil is seen to be not the dull, dead thing so many
imagine but teeming with life. It largely determines the
kind of crops which can be successfully raised in any re-
gion. While permanent exhaustion of soil is rare, an un-
derstanding of its nature, of the life within it and the
sanitation of this life are necessary if agriculture is to
meet the demands now made upon it.
The cast-iron plow was rarely used before 1820. The
Hawkes plow made in Hartford, became popular between
1830 and 1833 and at that time "everybody had them."
Fairbanks of St. Johnsbury also made iron plows in 1826
and their use spread rapidly down the Connecticut valley.
The cast-iron plow was much improved by Joel Nourse
and his partners in Massachusetts in 1836 and was in
great demand in the twenty years following. It is stated
that 20,000 plows were sold by them in a single year. The
number of patents on plows, prior to 1830 was 124, up to
1848 between 300 and 400.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 387
Apparently the steel and wrought-iron plow was
patented in 1808, a side hill plow in 1831, the coulter at-
tachment in 1834, jointer in 1884, and probably the
wheel, gang and steam plow somewhat earlier.
The sulky plow was in use in 1844. The steam tractor
plow was invented and used some time in the sixties.
Threshing machines were introduced early in the nine-
There are various contestants for the honor of invent-
ing the grain reaper but the record of the McCormick
reaper will sufficiently indicate the time of the introduc-
tion of this labor-saving machine which has made possible
the enormous expansion of wheat growing.
The invention began in 1809. It was not then a suc-
cess though it had the main features vital to all grain
cutting machines. Between 1820 and 1830 the machine
was made serviceable and was patented in 1834. A num-
ber were made prior to 1844. In that year twenty-five
were built, double that number in 1845 and the next year
a yet larger number. From 1845 to 1860 the model re-
mained unchanged except for the addition of seats for
the raker and driver. The machine cut the grain and left
it on the ground in loose bundles. The self-binder was
added in 1872 using wire binders. In 1880 twine was sub-
A successful mowing machine was patented in 1822 by
Jeremiah Bailey of Pennsylvania, which "cut grass in
the neatest manner, where land was smooth, with a swath
about five feet wide and lays the grass in regular rows."
But the foundation of the present mower rests on the
patent of Hussey in 1833. Subsequent changes have been
improvements of his idea. Mowers were not in general
use before 1850.
388 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
The period of the invention of other farming tools now
in use in greatly improved form was apparently in the
three decades following 1830. The horse cultivator was
devised by Jethro Tull of England early in the eighteenth
century and of a drill seeder in 1733.
Jared Eliot's seeder and manure distributor has al-
ready been noted, (page 344). The first patent for a corn
planter was granted to Eliakim Spooner of Vermont, in
1799. The first potato digger was invented about 1833.
The Connecticut Courant, July 31, 1821, announces "a
machine for sowing small seeds with perfect regularity
and in any desired quantity has lately been invented." But
the manufacture of grain drills began about 1840.
At the beginning of the century farm wagons were al-
most unknown, two-wheeled carts being more convenient
with oxen. Chaises and coaches then began to be used for
travel. Light, one-horse wagons came into use about 1830.
Commercial Fertilizers. Until the middle of the
century the fertilizers used in the State other than farm
manure were lime in various forms, land plaster, swamp
muck and marine mud and on the coast farms, fish, fol-
lowing the Indian practice. But soon after 1840, follow-
ing the appearance of von Liebig's work on Chemistry
in Its Applications to Agriculture, attention began to be
called to concentrated or commercial fertilizers.
Probably Peruvian guano was the first used. Then the
business of fertilizer manufacture began and chemical
manures "as good as Peruvian guano" were put on the
market. In 1856 the manufacture of dry fish manures be-
gan. The opening of mines of phosphate rock in South
Carolina and later in Florida and development of the
German potash industry early in the Sixties furnished the
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 389
material for an extensive use of soluble phosphates and
potash salts. The concentration of beef slaughtering for
the market in great establishments made necessary and
profitable the reduction of offal to an inoffensive and
transportable form, which at once found its use in nitrog-
enous manures. Nitrate of soda from Chili was also an
important addition to the fertilizer material and in re-
cent years the recovery of ammonia from the coke manu-
facture and the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen have
further added to it.
In the early years some were sceptical or denied the
value of commercial fertilizers and others had often too
much faith in them, as a kind of patent medicine, to cure
all defects of soil or tillage. The proper regulation of the
trade and the protection from frauds, as is noted on page
378 became very necessary and was a chief reason, in the
minds of many farmers, for the establishment of an
agricultural station. A law was passed in 1869 requiring
the labeling of commercial fertilizers with a statement of
composition. But with time the manufacture of fertilizers
has become as reliable as any other kind of manufacture,
the goods are sold largely on the basis of their content of
plant food and farmers have come to a better understand-
ing of the way in which they should be used. At the
present time 60,000 to 70,000 tons yearly are used in the
State, for which farmers pay probably not less than five
million dollars; by the census of 1919 about $4,900,000.
Calculating the amounts paid on the value of the dollar in
1913, the increase in the amount paid yearly for fertilizers
is the last decade has been about $360,000.
The foregoing shows the development of the educa-
tional and material aids to agriculture which were forced
390 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
by the increasing demands made upon it by the growth of
population and the increasing diversity of employment.
It remains to notice the more important farming in-
terests which have from time to time flourished in the last
and the present centuries.
At no time have there been such large farms as in many
Never has Connecticut been a one-crop State, In each
period there have been a number of farming interests
which were moderately profitable and at the same time
others which were growing or decreasing in importance.
Horses and Mules. In the last century horses had
been exported from Connecticut to the West Indies and
the business was of considerable importance after the
close of the Revolution and into the early years of the new
century. The following, (43, 1855), from a correspond-
ent in Coventry illustrates the conditions :
"From the settlement to the close of the revolution
horses were of medium size, mostly pacers, small bones,
large muscles and great endurance.
"Farmers in Coventry rode to Boston, 72 miles in one
day and back the next. There was quite a business there,
(Coventry) in raising horses for the West Indies trade.
Every farmer of means kept five to ten horses, small
boned, active, good under the saddle, mostly pacers and
amblers. Then the raising of horses declined and mules
were raised instead. Then the western states supplied
the mule market at lower prices and that business ceased.
About that time the merino sheep business came in."
Beef and Pork. At the beginning of the century Gov.
Trumbull refers to the raising of beef and pork as a lead-
ing industry in the State.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 391
Much was packed for sale in foreign parts and for
years there was a good domestic demand for beef. In
Litchfield County droves of two-year-olds were brought
from Vermont and New York, fed during the winter on
^rain and roughage, finished off on pasture during the
summer and sold in the fall. The same thing was done in
other parts of the State. Devons, Short Horns and Here-
fords were common, but since 1840 to 1850 the number
hoth of oxen and swine reported in the Census has shrunk
though swine have increased in the last twenty years, but
to only about half the number reported in 1840.
The introduction of dressed beef and pork by rail from
the west has put an end to any very considerable beef pro-
duction in this State.
Dairying and Dairy Stock. The original or so-
called "native" stock of Connecticut undoubtedly came
from Devonshire and the adjoining Counties of Somer-
setshire and Gloucestershire where the Devon breed pre-
vailed and where had been the home of many of the New
England settlers. This stock has been called mongrel or
inferior by some writers. But any inferiority was prob-
ably due rather to the inferior shelter, pasture and feed,
and lack of the chance to improve by breeding in the new
country than to anything inherent in the animals them-
selves. "The Commons, the Greens, the Parks, so fre-
quently found in our towns and cities, are landmarks of
those early times when each man's cows were gathered
into a common herd for better care and protection."
The "Town" bull, "Town" herdsman and a "Town"
brand also testifv to the care of the communitv for the
392 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
individual owner of cows, as well as the constant mixture
of good and poor strains.
Meadows and pastures first had some intelligent care
with the opening of the new century. A writer in 1813
says: "The introduction of clover . . . has within the
last ten years made a very sensible improvement in the
agriculture of this country. Indeed it is only within the
last twenty years that any grass seed has been sown, and
it will be no exaggeration to say that more clover seed has
been put in within the last eight years than has ever been
since the country was inhabited,"
It is true that there was little, if any thoroughbred
stock in Connecticut until near the middle of the century,
but on the other hand the stock brought over by immi-
grants would naturally have been as carefully selected as
was possible and the records of butter and cheese made
and sold in the early part of the century indicate that
there were many "good milkers" — as is always the case
— among these "native" cattle.
In 1819 the first full-blood Devon bull was imported
and in 1820 two full-blood heifers by S. and L. Hurlburt
of Winchester Center, (who were the originators. I be-
lieve, of the Hurlburt apple). From this stock the first
working cattle came which commanded high prices.
The Hurlburt's raised and sold 1,500 of them. At the
Hartford fair in 1825 the Hurlburts showed some fine
Devonshire bulls and Ayrshire and Holderness steers and
heifers. In a report of the Hartford fair it is said that
"probably no section of our country can produce a finer
race of native cattle than this County. Most of the for-
eign breeds of known and established excellence are now
propagated within the limits of this Society, half blooded
Holderness, Ayrshire and Devonshire cows took prem-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 393
iums." The first pure herd book, of which I find notice,
is of short horn cattle, begun in 1835 at East Windsor.
The early importations of Jersey cattle are most difficult
to trace. The animals were called indifferently Jerseys,
Guernseys or Alderneys and they were interbred indis-
criminately. The marked differences between Guernsey
and Jersey today are largely changes which have developed
by careful selection and breeding since 1870.
It is stated, (41, Vol. IV), that "nearly, if not quite the
earliest importation of Jersey cows into Connecticut was
in 1846 when J. A. Taintor brought into Hartford County
twelve of the best cows that he could find on the Island of
Jersey." The earliest imported Jerseys to become regis-
tered later were brought over in 1850 by Messrs. Buell
and Norton to Connecticut. Somewhat later C. R. Alsop
imported two Jerseys which he sold to Lyman A. Mills of
Middlefield in 1869 and which appear in Vol. I of the
Jersey Register. He continued as a breeder of Jerseys
until 1896 when he sold his herd of 32 head to C. I. Hood
of the Hood farm.
Says a recent writer: "When the "Great West" first
began to make itself vocal in Jersey Club affairs, there
were more Jerseys in Connecticut than in all the great
The first Guernseys, the records of which were kept
so that they could be recorded in the registry, were im-
ported in 1830 or 1831 by Mr. Prince of Boston. About
1874 a number of importations of Guernseys into Con-
necticut were made by C. M. Beach of West Hartford,
which were the foundation of the herd of E. Norton of
Farmington, who was the secretary of the Guernsey
registry. The Guernsey herd book was established in
394 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
The first thoroughbred herd of Holstein-Friesian stock
was imported into this country about 1860 when W. W.
Chenery of Behnont, Mass., imported a bull and four
cows which founded the breed in this country. One of
;he earliest importers into this State was M. L. Stoddard
of Newington. From him A. B. Pierpont of Waterbury
bought a bull which, with other pure bloods, founded a
fine thoroughbred herd. As this breed is distinctly high
milk-producing it has become very popular since fresh
milk rather than butter has become the chief product of
dairy farms. A total of 7,757 Holsteins have been im-
ported, most of them between 1879 and 1890 and from
them our present thoroughbred stock has descended. The
number of registered Holsteins in the country in 1915
The first blooded Ayrshires brought to the United
States, came to Connecticut in 1822. In 1837 the Massa-
chusetts Society for promoting Agriculture established
its first herd of Ayrshires.
Flint states (27), that "in the opinion of many good
judges the dairy stock of New England has not been im-
proved in its intrinsic good qualities during the last thirty
or forty years. Cows of the very highest order as milkers
were as frequently met with, they say, in 1825 as at the
The general conditions seem to have been these. Early
in the century English cattle were imported, Durhams,
Devons, Aberdeens, Herefords and Shorthorns and later,
when dairy products, rather than beef and draft cattle
became necessary, came Ayrshires, Jerseys, Guernseys
and later Holsteins. But these were used at first chiefly
for "breeding up" the dairy stock with little attention to
establishing thoroughbred herds. Phelps says (53),
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 395
Shorthorns and Devonshires, prior to 1870 were leading
breeds (in Litchfield County) "but when dairying as a
business came in, Connecticut became the home of some
of the best old world breeds.
In fact there was no science of breeding until Darwin
laid the foundations in his series of books on biology, be-
ginning in 1859.
Cheese Manufacture. In 1792 Alexander Norton of
Goshen, being sent to the South for his health, bought
cheese to sell again at the South. The venture was so suc-
cessful that he continued the business, packing it first in
hogsheads, but later in round boxes which he devised,
each carrying two cheeses. This was the beginning of an
important cheese making industry in this section. In 1845
Litchfield County made more than 2^ million pounds of
cheese annually, and Windham County 850,000 pounds.
Dwight says, (24, Vol. II), "The inhabitants of Goshen
are probably more wealthy than any other collection of
farmers in New England equally numerous. The quantity
of cheese made by them is estimated at 400,000 pounds.
This place seems to have been a pioneer in the cheese man-
ufacture on a large scale and no other place in the State
did more than a very limited business in cheese making."
The first pineapple cheese was made by Lewis M. Nor-
ton of Goshen in 1808 and in 1810 a patent was obtained
for the form. He continued till 1844 making cheese from
his own herd of fifty cows. He then began buying curd
from other dairies and built what is believed to be the first
cheese factory in the country. Other factories soon
started. Norton's son established one in New York State.
The two made 65,000 to 70,000 pounds as late as 1889.
396 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Large herds of Durhams and Ayrshires developed in con-
nection with the cheese industry.
Up to 1780 making butter and cheese at home were the
chief branches of dairy industry and cheese formed a
considerable part of dairy production till near the close
of the century, in places remote from railroad transporta-
From Connecticut the cheese industry and dairy farm-
ing in general was carried to the West. "The Connecticut
Yankee brought a cheese hoop with him and wherever he
went made cheese. Western Reserve has continued to be
the dairy section of the State. There the old home made
cheese trade developed, there the cheese factory had its
beginnings, there the creamery had its development, and
there is now the market milk center of the State."
Butter Making, Co-operative Creameries. Butter
was made in families from the beginning and home-made
butter became an article of trade as soon as the market
permitted. Thus in 1845 Litchfield County made 1,290,000
pounds, Hartford and Fairfield Counties almost as much.
As the trade increased and uniformity and excellence of
quality became more necessary, there developed the
creamery system and especially the co-operative creamery.
The Farmington Creamery, if not the very first, es-
tablished, was certainly the one which incited the general
movement. This was organized as a joint stock company
in 1869-1870 with a capital of $4,000, afterwards in-
creased to $4,500. In 1871 it received milk from 200
cows and in 1881 from 750. In 1889 there were five joint
stock companies and two private creameries within a few
miles of Farmington and sixty-three in the State. Wapp-
ing Creamery was organized in 1883, Windsor in 1885.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 397
In 1889 Lebanon Creamery "sent tons of home-made but-
ter to Providence," but this became unprofitable and a
co-operative creamery was estabhshed to make cheese.
But all the other creameries, it is believed, were engaged
solely in making and marketing butter, the skim-milk be-
ing either returned to the farms or in many cases poured
into the river.
The advent of the cream gathering system with deep
setting left the skimmed milk on the farm, paying by the
"space" of cream was supplanted by testing each patron's
cream and basing payment on pounds of butter fat de-
livered. The use of the separator on the farm added to
the economy of butter production. But the business of
these creameries became unprofitable and they disap-
peared as rapidly as they had grown in numbers and im-
portance. The reason is obvious. Prior to about 1878 the
consumption of fresh milk in cities and towns was light
and was supplied within a short radius of farms. At least
the demand for fresh milk did not anywhere meet the sup-
ply. The surplus was used for butter making in the
family, and sold to individuals or to the village store.
Then came the co-operative creamery as has been noted
and an increasing demand for high-grade butter. But
soon came the ruinous western competition in butter and
the introduction of butter substitutes, which closed the
butter factories of Connecticut. (In 1889 there were 63
of them, now only very few remain. )
The industry in condensed milk in this country began
in Litchfield County. A Mr. Gale of Burrville put up
milk under the first patent for condensing milk and em-
ploying sugar in the process. The Borden Condensed
Milk Company, organized in 1863, did business in Win-
sted until 1866.
398 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
But with the concentration of population in cities and
with increased attention to sanitation and the importance
of rational nutrition there has come a greatly increased
demand for clean fresh milk made under sanitary condi-
tions, and since 1900 about three-fourths of the milk pro-
duced has been sold fresh. The production and proper
marketing of such milk is now the only profitable branch
of dairy industry. Shipping stations for fresh milk have
taken the place of creameries, and while very little fresh
milk is brought into Connecticut approximately twenty-
five million quarts are yearly shipped from Connecticut
to neighboring states.
Milk has also been made a safer food by pasteurization,
seventy per cent of the fluid milk consumed in the State
being treated in this way.
Better still is the production of certified milk from
tested cows, with all sanitary precautions in the handling
of the milk under rigid inspection by state officials.
The manufacture of ice cream, a recent but rapidly
growing business (there are at least twenty factories of
good repute in the State), is of great advantage to the
dairy business by taking up its surplus milk in periods of
The number of milk cows in the State, over 85,000 in
1850, was nearly 128,000 in 1890 to 1900, but in 1920
sharply declined to 112,600, due to reduction of stock
during the war, but rose in 1923 to 141,000.
Four inventions have made the present development of
the milk business possible. The silo is the first, which
gives a supply of green, succulent feed through the entire
year and greatly reduces the need of pasture land. The
practice of ensilaging green fodder is very ancient, but
its general introduction into dairy practice is very modern.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 399
In 1870 Goffert published in France a Manual of the Cul-
ture and Siloing of Maize and other green crops, which
brought it to general attention and he may be called the
Father of Modern Silage. The earhest silos in the United
States were built by Miles in Michigan in 1875 and by
F. Morris in Maryland in 1876. Their use in this State
immediately followed. The round silo resulted from the
work of King in Wisconsin, 1892-1895. In 1882 there
were less than 100 silos in the United States. It is esti-
mated that now there are a quarter of a million in use.
The second, and later invention is the milking machine
which has greatly reduced the labor requirement.
The third is the corn harvester which harvests and
binds the crop, ready to be cut and put into the silo by
machinery with a further reduction of labor.
The fourth invention is the Babcock test to determine
the amount of butter fat in milk as a basis of payment, or
as a check on adulteration.
In 1891 this was first used in the State to fix the pay-
ment for mJlk by its content of butter fat. Soon after,
it was adopted by the creameries as a basis of payment,
replacing other systems which gave a chance for dis-
honesty and discouraged the producers of high quality
cream. At present it is useful as a test of the quality of
market milk in the State and as a help to breeders in judg-
ing of the performance of individual cows.
The two most insidious and dangerous diseases of dairy
stock are tuberculosis and infectious abortion. The
danger to the public and loss to the farmer caused by
tuberculosis is well understood, but infectious abortion
causes more loss to the dairyman than is generally known.
The means of preventing it are now being studied at
the Storrs Agricultural Station with encouraging results.
400 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Good progress is now made in ridding the State of tu-
berculous cattle and of stopping their entry into it.
As a result of the work of the commissioner of do-
mestic animals, the dairy commissioner and federal offi-
cials there are now 1,405 herds, containing 31,764 dairy
cattle in the State proved to be free from tuberculosis.
Of these 410 herds, numbering 8,797 head have been
found free for two years or more. This of course, is only
a small fraction of the total number of cows in the State,
but it marks the early stages of a movement to entirely
wipe out bovine tuberculosis and by so doing to lessen
the disease in the human race.
The Sheep Industry. In the nineteenth century
Connecticut developed an extensive sheep industry,
brought into the State and country the merino sheep which
were the foundation of the best flocks everywhere, and
finally has seen the steady decline of sheep raising almost
to the vanishing point.
The introduction of Spanish merino sheep is of special
interest because it was the work of a Connecticut citizen
and Connecticut was the center from which this breed
was distributed, being the foundation of the improved
Vermont merinos and the American merinos which have
been of inestimable value to the country.
It is said that two merino ewes and a ram were sent to
a gentleman in Cambridge in 1798, which were butchered
and eaten. In 1801 a merino ram, Dom Pedro, reached
this country and was used as a sire in New York and
Delaware. In 1801 Seth Adams imported a merino ram
and ewe and received a prize from the Massachusetts
Agricultural Society for the importation of a pair of
superior breed, But for the establishment of the breed
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 401
on American farms the country is indebted to Gen. David
Humphreys, diplomatist, poet and farmer. In a discourse
delivered in 1816, he indulges the hope that ''this acquisi-
tion of the golden fleece is an event of some importance"
and that "it will possibly be remembered when I shall be
no more." He was awarded a gold medal by the Massa-
chusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture and later
Connecticut gave him a testimonial in recognition of his
In 1802, (54), Gen. David Humphrey, U. S. Minister
at Madrid, retired from office with the close of the Adams
administration. He had become a special favorite among
the grandees from some of whom he had acquired a deep
interest in the Spanish sheep. Being contrary to Ameri-
can custom he could not accept the present usually be-
stowed on a departing minister but at his suggestion he
was tacitly permitted to send a flock of pure blooded
merinos to his farm at Derby, Conn. This consisted of
75 ewes and 25 rams, nine animals having died on the
His farm at once became the center of the wool grow-
At first farmers were not greatly interested, but when
America was shut off from foreign wool the interest in
wool increased. In 1806 Humphrey was glad to get $300
for a ram and two ewes. In 1808 he sold a ram for
$1,000. Crossing merinos with common sheep was found
to double the shearing of wool. Connecticut became the
center of a sheep mania and in 1813 there were estimated
to be 400,000 sheep within the State. From there the
merino stock was distributed through the sheep raising
sections of the country.
In 1810 merino wool sold in Hartford at the following
402 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
prices: Full-bred, $2.75 per pound. Half-bred, $1.00.
Quarter-bred, 62 cents.
Regarding the yield per head little data appears. The
fleece of a pure merino lamb in New Milford, (1810) was
said to weight nine pounds, the carcass, sixty- three
In 1824 the Saxon merinos were brought in and largely
About 1815 the tariff on wool was removed and a de-
cline in the sheep industry followed, lasting till 1825.
Then for twenty years the production of fine wool greatly
In 1840 there were over 400,000 sheep in Connecticut
(U. S. Census) and a production of nearly 900,000
pounds of wool. The production steadily decreased from
that date until, in 1920 there were less than 12,000 sheep
in the State with a wool production of about 42,000
In 1810 and 1811, while Spain was at war with
Napoleon, her flocks were broken up, eaten by ravaging
armies, stolen by the French and thousands were smug-
gled through Portugal to England. The Junta, in order
to get fimds, sold the choicest stock and it is estimated
that 20,000 full blooded sheep came to America. Most
of them probably were used for grading up native stock
rather than for building pure blooded flocks. The prices
here fell to one-tenth of the prices charged at the height
of the excitement following their introduction.
Carding machines for this fine wool were soon found
in every hamlet and Congress increased the ad valorem
duty on wool from five to thirty-five per cent.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 403
Fruit Growing. While the fruit crop was consider-
able at the close of the preceding century, choice varieties
were few. Most fruit trees had been raised from seed.
The apples were of all colors and flavors, but of these
"native" kinds some were choice and have held their place.
Thus the Hurlburt, as already noticed, was a Connecticut
seedling. It is said that the original Northern Spy in New
York came from seed from Salisbury, Conn. Hadwin
states that the first variety of apple developed in New
England was the Rhode Island Greening in Portsmouth,
R. I. The original tree stood near an ancient tavern
known, in 1765, as Green's Inn, and for years its fruit
was called "Green's Inn apple."
The Roxbury Russet probably originated in Roxbury,
Mass., soon after the settlement of the country. The first
settlers at Stonington came from Roxbury in 1649 and
it is said brought this variety with them. It is undoubt-
edly the oldest of native sorts. The original Baldwin
stood in Wilmington, Mass., and was first recognized
as a favorite fruit about the middle of the eighteenth
In the early part of the century, James Hillhouse of
New Haven, (44, Vol. I), received scions from the
King's gardener in France and grafted 150 varieties of
apples and 40 of pears. President Dwight of Yale Col-
lege, early in the century, (24) gives a list of twenty lead-
ing varieties of apples grown in New England, from which
fruit may be had in every month of the year except July.
Gold states that in the early part of the century Pearmain
and Seeknofurther were common and that the Baldwin
came into general use later.
At the beginning of the century the apple product was
mainly consumed as cider. Soon after, and perhaps in
404 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
consequence of the closing of trade with the West Indies
which stopped the importation of rum, the manufacture
of cider brandy developed rapidly. Many farmers in
Hartford County made 300 to 600 barrels of cider and
some few 1 ,000 barrels yearly, eight to ten barrels making
one of brandy.
There followed a temperance revival which in a few
years arrested this manufacture. Many cut down their
orchards and all neglected them.
The more careful selection and improvement of varie-
ties of apples probably began about 1835 to 1840. In
1842 Titus Gaylord of Cheshire had an orchard of 250
trees of "engrafted" winter apples. Since that time the
planting of orchards of carefully selected kinds of apples
has developed into a special agricultural industry. The
crop seems to have reached a maximum in 1900 with a
production of 3,708,900 bushels which fell according to
the Census of 1920 to 1,395,100 bushels. The quality of
the fruit and the careful grading of it were never so good
The pests which attack orchards are many. The two
which have proved most injurious are the coddling moth
and the San Jose scale. The former is everywhere present
and persistent and must be controlled every year by spray-
ing. The San Jose scale, brought into the state on nursery
stock was first found by the botanist of the Agricultural
Station in 1885.
It spread rapidly and by 1901 was found in seventy-
eight places in the State. Many orchards were ruined,
many others seriously damaged and the whole industry
threatened with ruin. It was finally controlled by a rigid
inspection of nursery stock and by the use of sprays. Para-
sites also developed which destroyed a great deal of the
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 405
scale on neglected wild growth. By 1914 the pest was no
longer prevalent but lately there has been a fresh de-
velopment of it.
Excellent seedling peaches were grown in the State be-
fore 1800 and long afterwards. Piatt, (18), says that
about 1840 peaches were as common about our farms as
apples, and seedling trees 90 or 100 years old were re-
ported. Later it was believed that the day of peaches was
past for trees lived hardly long enough to give a single
In the Seventies peach growing was at its lowest ebb ;
yet between 1845 and 1875 there were at least thirty or-
chards in the State, one in Southington of twenty acres.
In 1893 Piatt estimated that there were about 160,000
peach trees in the State, about half of them set within the
last three years.
Peach "yellows," known as early as 1815, (23, 1845),.
became very destructive and in 1842, is said to threaten
the destruction of all peaches. Complaint is also made of
the "curl." Rareripes, Admirables, Royal Kensington and
Noblesse are mentioned as popular varieties and probably
by that time the peach was somewhat generally grown.
In 1875 J. H. Hale of Glastonbury planted the first
commercial peach orchard and introduced and greatly
fostered this branch of farming in the State.
In 1878 P. M. Augur of Middlefield planted a second
orchard of 1,500 trees, but because of frost injury the
first considerable crop of peaches was not gathered until
1887, and from then on the business rapidly increased.
The industry has had very serious setbacks, due to in-
sect and fungus invasions and the vagaries of our winter
climate, but partly owing to the fact that the Connecticut
peach is at its best when those from other orchards
406 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
further south are out of market, the business is fairly
successful. The peak production was in 1914-1915, prob-
ably 500,000 baskets. Hale states that in 1901 there were
less than 100,000 peach trees in Connecticut while ten
years later there were three million.
This, however, must have been a peach stampede, like
the '49 rush for gold in California, which quickly sub-
sided, leaving dead and neglected orchards.
The perishable small fruits have been grown since the
early days of the Colony but only became of commercial
importance late in the century when quick transportation
and the demands of nearby cities made any considerable
Since the passage of the Volstead Act, and in conse-
quence of it, the growing of grapes in this vState has in-
creased enormously though there are no statistics to show
The Seed-Growing Business. While before the Rev-
olution some garden seeds were imported from London
by dealers and ship owners, yet most families saved seed
of their own raising for their use. The oldest seed firms
were established in Philadelphia, the first being David
Landreth, established in 1784.
The Shaker colony in Enfield probably started late in
the eighteenth century.
The Shakers prepared for market medicinal herbs and
garden seeds and their gardens are said to have been very
profitable, because their products were everywhere sought,
being esteemed better than any other.
They frequently had large orders from Europe for
In two sections where vegetables were grown to some
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 407
extent for market the possibility of commercial seed
growing was recognized. One of these sections was
Wethersfield. As has been noted, Wethersfield had long
been a center for onion growing and vegetable gardening.
Gradually it became a center for seed production rather
than truck farming.
The seed business has continued there strong up to the
present, in spite of the great changes in commercial and
The first general seed business in Wethersfield is be-
lieved to have been started about 1820 by James L. Bel-
den. It proved to be profitable and in 1838 was sold to
Franklin G. Comstock and his son William G. Comstock.
Later W. G. Comstock with Henry Ferre founded
Comstock, Ferre & Company, incorporated in 1853. For
86 years the business has been carried on under the Com-
stock name and for at least 104 years there has been the
same established business on their property. Other firms
were later established all of which had a country-wide
reputation. Thomas Griswold & Company, established in
1845; Johnson, Robbins & Company, in 1855; William
Meggat, in 1866; and Hart, Welles & Company, in 1894,
which was succeeded in 1916 by the Charles C. Hart Seed
William B. Comstock, a strong, aggressive man, built
up a fine seed trade in the South, having for a time a
branch store in New Orleans and he pushed out on the
frontier in the days when St. Louis, Chicago and Minne-
apolis were the extreme "West," almost in advance of
railroads. He seems to have started the commission box
business. He devised seed bags, with printed cultural
directions and wax seals, the different colors of which
represented the year of packing, so that the seeds longest
408 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
viable, cucumbers, beets, etc., could be carried for five
years and others for shorter periods, depending on the
duration of their vitality. Comstock laid out the first
route of his seed wagons, up the Connecticut valley to
Springfield, Vermont and later they covered New Eng-
land and parts of Canada and other states. Later he put
up seeds for the southern trade, shipped to the principal
cities from Washington to New Orleans. This branch
of the business was dropped by Comstock, Ferre & Com-
pany, in 1888 so as to specialize in wholesale trade, but is
still carried on by the Chas. C. Hart Seed Company of
Wethersfield, probably the only firm in the State specializ-
ing in that line.
Onion growing reached its height in the period from
1860 to 1885 and for some years represented many
thousands of dollars in farming operations.
In less than fifty years seed growing has swung across
the continent and the Pacific and western states have for
years been able to produce for a less price, largely be-
cause of cheaper labor and greater yields with less lia-
bility of loss from insect pests, storms, etc., and while
Wethersfield is still a center of a large seed trade, seed
growing has shrunk to a very moderate amount. The
secret of the development of an extensive seed business in
Wethersfield, as in the Milford and Orange region, lies
in the fact that the men engaged in it were first of all ex-
tensive vegetable growers who had for years carefully
selected types of one or more vegetables to secure purity
and quality, which were recognized as superior and were
in demand. It was skillful selection and growing, rather
than selling, which made the great reputation of the place.
The entire seed trade acknowledges its obligation to
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 409
The foregoing facts are taken from an address to the
Wethersfield Business Men's Association in 1916 by Mr.
S. F. Willard.
The other seed growing and seed trade center of the
State is the region of Milford and Orange and in the town
of Westport where onion seed as well as onions were at
one time extensively raised.
Seed growing as a business was perhaps practiced here
in the Forties.
In 1857 E. B. Clark of Milford, succeeded by the
Everett B. Clark Seed Company, began the seed trade in-
dustry in that section of the State, and inaugurated the
growing of sweet corn seed as a business. S. D. Wood-
ruff of Orange, succeeded by S. D. Woodruff & Sons,
were also prominently engaged in both growing and
trading in seed.
There followed a great expansion of the business, but
since 1880 the business has followed the same course as
in Wethersfield, viz., great shrinkage in seed production,
while the trade in seeds has increased.
A considerable number of varieties of seeds is still
grown in Connecticut, largely in the Milford and Orange
districts, several of which are not grown elsewhere of as
high quality, namely onions, beets, and sweet corn. The
Connecticut sweet corn seed is in demand as "stock"
seed from regions in the West and South, where home-
grown seed degenerates in a few years and fresh stock
must be introduced.
For the two seed trade centers sweet corn seed is grown
in various parts of the State and it is in large demand from
the canneries of the country for it is a surer crop here
than in the canning districts, besides being of superior
410 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Probably 1,200 acres are planted at present to sweet
corn for seed, very little to onions and perhaps 75,000
pounds of beet seed of exceptionally fine quality are yearly
grown in the State.
Vegetable Growing, a very profitable farming indus-
try in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, did not
apparently meet much serious competition from other
states until the last quarter of the century. As early as
1 847 a small quantity of lettuce, radishes, mint and straw-
berries were brought to New York from the South, but in
the spring of 1885 the first all-rail shipment of Southern
garden truck came to New York.
In the Eighties also came the first car loads of oranges
from Florida and strawberries in large quantities. At
present not only are the more solid fruits and vegetables
brought into Connecticut from other states but also the
very perishable things, like lettuce, asparagus and spinach
from the far south fill our markets at certain seasons.
In spite of outside competition, however, the production
and sale of strictly fresh vegetables for our home market,
seems likely to be an enduring business.
Potatoes were said to have been raised in the western
part of the State in 1802 (58), from seed balls, the second
or third year from the ball.
About 1842 (20, III), potatoes were a principal crop
in Greenwich. The average yield was 200 bushels per
acre and they were shipped to New York. For many years
Greenwich sent more potatoes to New York than all the
other coast towns of Connecticut and they made Green-
wich the richest town in the State in proportion to its
The Census of 1840 reports a larger yield of potatoes
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 411
than in any decade except 1900 and the production has
fallen from about three and a half million bushels in that
year to less than half that amount in 1920.
Poor seed and a number of rather obscure plant dis-
eases account in large part for the decline.
Onions. These were at first grown wholly as a vege-
table and Wethersfield became the center of the business
in the eighteenth century.
In 1823 Dwight reports that the growing of onions
there is still profitable but not so extensively practiced as
earlier because of competition.
Gradually the business shifted to onion seed production
as noted elsewhere.
Later onion growing became extensive in the Fairfield
region, being specially profitable during the Civil War
when the "Southport Globe" was raised and sold for ten
dollars a barrel. It was the best keeping variety ever put
on the market. Probably 100,000 barrels were raised
there in the war time. In 1871, onions are reported as
the chief crop in Westport and Southport, yielding an
average of 500 bushels per acre and the highest recorded
yield, 900 bushels. 300,000 to 500,000 bushels were yearly
raised in that town. In 1885, a tract six miles square in
Westport grew 80,000 barrels of onions which was only
two-thirds of a normal crop.
Soon after, the price of onions fell greatly. The white
onion was more in demand and was extensively grown.
But the difficulty of keeping them, the prevalence of fun-
gous diseases, labor scarcity and a great rise in real es-
tate values together nearly extinguished the onion grow-
Tomatoes were scarcely grown in the State until the
412 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
second quarter of the nineteenth century, T. S. Gold re-
ports that in 1830 he planted tomatoes in his flower gar-
den in Goshen and got an abundant crop. They were
called "love apples" and he was told that "they eat them in
France" — no one in Goshen did. They are now very ex-
tensively grown in the State, both for marketing and for
Tobacco is the one crop which has shown steadily in-
creased production from the begiiming of the century to
the present. For the last fifty years at least it has met
with serious competition from Florida and Georgia, and
from Sumatra (since 1881), but in spite of this it has
almost constantly held its place as a superior grade of
leaf for cigar wrappers. Its growth, rather general
through the State in the earlier years, afterwards became
limited to the light, sandy soils of the northern Connecti-
cut valley and to the somewhat stronger soils of the
Housatonic valley. On such soils alone can tobacco be
grown which has the qualities required by the trade for
cigar wrappers or binders; the only uses to which it is
adapted. In 1840 the production was 235.8 tons, in 1920
2109.6 tons, a nine-fold increase.
Prior to 1801 not more than ten tons of tobacco were
grown in Connecticut yearly, and was mostly shipped to
the West Indies in hogsheads. The growers got from
$3.00 to $3.33 per hundredweight. This was a narrow,
so-called "shoestring" tobacco. About that time plug and
twist tobacco were made in East Windsor, (at first by a
Mrs. Prout from Virginia), and also cigars, known as
"paste" cigars and later as "long nines" or "Windsor par-
ticulars." (68, 1856).'^
23 Col. Israel Putnam, of Wolf Den fame, is credited with the introduc-
tion of cigars into Connecticut. It is said that he went as Lieut. Col. of the
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 413
In 1810 factories were established in East Windsor
and Siiffield which also used both Spanish and Connecti-
cut tobacco in their cigars and peddled them through the
country from wagons.
About 1824-1825 a packing house was established and
the leaf, in bales of 100 pounds, (another writer says 400
pounds ) , were enclosed in boards on four sides with the
Till 1833 "shoestring" tobacco was grown. But about
this time a broadleaf strain was brought by B. P. Bar-
bour of East Windsor, from Maryland, which was far
l)etter suited to cigar manufacture, by its shape, texture
and neutral flavor. The somewhat careful sorting of the
leaf before sale began about 1840.
The first tobacco was grown in the Housatonic valley,
at Kent, in 1845 and soon after in New Milford. By
1870 it became a leading product.
In 1890 tobacco was first grown under shade in this
State by the Connecticut Agricultural Station and the sta-
tion also introduced witji it the method for the rapid fer-
mentation of the leaf in bulk instead of in cases. Both
practices immediately gained favor and in 1893, 645
acres were grown under shade in the Connecticut valley.
Then, owing to lack of experience in curing and fer-
mentation and the use of unselected "Sumatra" seed, the
raising of shade tobacco suffered eclipse and the acreage
of the next three years ran from 40 to 70 acres, but
rapidly increased with increased skill in raising and hand-
ling the crop to 6,100 acres in 1918, the larger part of it
first Connecticut regiment in the expedition against Havana in 1762. Shortly-
after its capture, while on a scouting expedition, he saw nearly every native
smoking a big, roughly rolled cigar. A trial of them so pleased him that
Tie brought home a quantity, "as much as three donkeys could pack". Later
he kept a tavern in Pomf ret and distributed his cigars which soon became
414 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
in Connecticut. The shaded tobacco under favorable con-
ditions commands a much higher price than that grown
in the open. In 1924 the acreage was 5250.
In 1856, (43, Vol. I), an effort was made to induce
growers to put their crops in a general warehouse in or-
der to rid themselves of the speculative system of buying
It was claimed that in the three years during which it
had been practiced, on a limited scale, growers had got
from 50 to 75 per cent more for their crop than had been
obtained from "speculators," and had also raised the
speculators' prices. Apparently an organization was ef-
fected which continued for some years. How much it
actually accomplished or how long a course it ran, does
not seem to have been recorded.
In the fall of 1922 The Connecticut Valley Tobacco
Association was formed, its members binding themselves
for five years to sell to the Association all of the tobacco
raised by or for them. It operates 104 warehouses, grades
all the tobacco from its members, sells it and as sales are
made pays the members according to the grading of their
crop, after paying the expenses of the organization. At
present it controls 87 per cent of the acreage of New Eng-
land tobacco which is grown in the open.
Corn. We have seen that maize was the staple crop
and staple cereal food of the settlers in the seventeenth
century. Gradually wheat displaced it, at first only among
the more prosperous in the centers.
But baked in thin cakes, forerunner of the "hoe cake"
of the South, cooked as "hasty pudding," with molasses
as a sauce, later made into bread with rye ("rye and
Injin"), corn meal was widely used in the country in the
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 415
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and now, while
it has almost passed as a family food, it has not passed
from some of us as a not unpleasant boyhood memory.
We have also noticed that corn has become a chief
reliance of dairymen to make good the lack of pasturage
in summer and to provide a succulent food in the long
winters. While the silo did not come into general use
before 1880, the value of the corn plant for fodder was
understood long before. A writer in the "Connecticut
Courant" in 1821 calls attention to corn fodder and claims
that, properly cured, it is as good as hay. He cuts it when
it is about ready to spindle and cuts it high enough so that
it will "spread again" and give a second crop.
The production of the grain increased steadily since
1840 till 1909.
The yield in 1919, 2,062,495 bushels, was 468,000
bushels less than in the preceding census, and may be ex-
plained by a poor season and in part by the larger produc-
tion of wheat after the war. This larger production of
shelled corn includes a very considerable amount of sweet
corn seed shipped out of the State to canneries and seed
Rye and Oats. The crop of oats, which in 1840 nearly
equalled that of corn, has steadily declined to the present
The production of rye, always grown in smaller amount
than oats, has likewise steadily declined, though it is still
used quite extensively as a cover crop and green manure.
Wheat. Connecticut has never been a considerable
grain producing State. Even in the eighteenth centur}' its
wheat supply was drawn largely from New York and
416 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
Pennsylvania, and after 1850 the "golden West" almost
monopolized the business. Yet the State has been slow to
quite abandon the growing of wheat. Thus in 1845 a
writer in the "Cultivation" says that more or less wheat
has been grown on his farm in Cheshire for forty-five
years, and the crop was a failure not more than three times
in this period. For the fifteen years since he has owned the
farm there has been no insect injury. His wheat runs 62
pounds to the bushel.
As late as 1871 wheat growing was not uncommon.
Thus 100 acres were grown in Westport, with an average
yield of 30 bushels per acre.
Greenwich at the same time reported that the majority
of farmers raised enough to supply them with bread.
It is interesting to note that in the financial crash of
IS36-37 so wide a ruin of wheat was wrought by the Hes-
sian fly that more than 1,360,000 bushels of wheat were
imported into this country from Europe.
From 1850 to 1880 38,000 to 50,000 bushels of wheat
were yearly raised in Connecticut. Then the production
fell to about 7,000, 9,000 and 12,000 bushels in the three
following decades, but rose to 50,000 bushels in 1919, a
larger crop than at any time since 1840. This was a war
time emergency. Very many farmers raised satisfactory
crops of wheat and found that on good land a yield of 40
bushels per acre was quite possible.
With the great increase in poultry keeping, it is not
likely that wheat growing will immediately fall to the
pre-war basis. It is quite likely that to supply feed for
poultry and for dairy stock it may find a place with profit
in farm rotations.
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 417
Hemp. As has been noted, hemp was grown from the
early days, being encouraged by bounties. About 1810
it seems to have been quite successful on the fertile banks
of the Connecticut River and on warm uplands.
Long Meadow, just over the Massachusetts line (19.
1810), is stated to have sold the year's crop in Boston,
New Haven and New York for $35,000. Three to twelve
hundred pounds per acre could be raised, and it was
quoted at $412 per ton in Boston, but $200 was a fair
price when trade with Russia was open. Dwight says
(24, Vol. I). "Hemp has lately excited the attention in
earnest. At Long Meadow and at Enfield, Conn., and at
some other places in the neighborhood, it grows luxuri-
antly and is undoubtedly the most profitable crop that can
be raised." In 1804 the General Assembly put a bounty
of $10 a ton on domestic hemp or flax which was later
repealed. But as late as 1829 land on which hemp was
raised was exempt from taxation.
Probably the business never attained any great vol-
ume. The census of 1860 reports the Connecticut produc-
tion of hemp as three tons, and it is not reported later.
Flax was widely grown in this State in the first quar-
ter of the century and in some places in rather large
amount, both for the fiber and for the seed. Thus in 1802
Milford raised 100,000 pounds of flax and 4,000 bushels
of flax seed. In 1807 (36. II) Fairfield exported about
20,000 bushels of flax seed a year, and later more flax was
grown there than in the whole of New England beside
(24, III) . The average crop of flax was about 200 pounds
with 6-S bushels of seed.
In 1810 (9), while flax in the country exceeded both
wool and cotton as textile fibers, it was not suited to New
418 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
England conditions because of the labor and fertilization
required, but as it was needed for the making of tow
cloth and linen, a small area on the farm was generally
planted to flax, until about the middle of the century, and
by 1880 the growing of flax had practically ceased in
The course of Connecticut farming since about 1880
and its present condition have been admirably set forth
by Prof. I. G. Davis of the Connecticut Agricultural Col-
lege in the "Agricultural College Review," March, 1924.
What follows is chiefly an abstract of his conclusions :
During the last forty years, in the rapid changes in
economic conditions, Connecticut agriculture has been
forced to continual readjustment to meet these conditions.
This has resulted in more intense methods of farming
and elimination of the less productive and more remote
"Our agriculture of forty years ago was a livestock in-
dustry, based on hay and pasture." These are crops re-
quiring a broad acreage. But when the seemingly ex-
haustless, fertile lands of the West were opened, wool,
mutton and beef, easily produced and easily carried or
driven to shipping points, was brought to market at prices
with which Connecticut farmers, with small fields and
brush pastures, could not compete and make a living. So
these lines of farming had to be given up, and, as in every
other business, changed conditions had to be met by
changed methods and changed production.
The extensive production of beef, sheep and dairy man-
ufactures (cheese and butter) was therefore gradually
abandoned. But these are hay- and grass-consuming in-
dustries requiring extensive acreage, and their abandon-
ment inevitably caused the decrease by more than one-
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 419
half in improved farm acreage. The use of motor ve-
hicles for local transportation instead of horses accounts
for a further reduction in hay acreage.
What has been the result ?
1. The production of livestock products, which are
easily transported (meats, wool, butter and low-grade
eggs) has rapidly declined, while the production of things
which, because of extreme perishability, can be produced
only where they can reach the consumer quickly, in per-
fect condition, has increased. Fresh milk and high-grade
eggs, produced for local market, show this decided in-
crease. Dairying does not require extensive pasture land.
Grain feeding, the use of soiling crops and the extensive
use of corn silage are substitutes for grazing land. The
fact that corn is the only food crop which has not declined
but actually increased since 1880, is explained by its ex-
tensive use in dairy feeding.
2. The growing of cash crops which have a high weight
per unit of value, such as hay for sale, potatoes and cab-
bage, declined during the period.
Low freight rates tended to discourage raising them
here, but the higher freight rates now prevailing may
bring them in again. There are signs of this revival helped
by better methods of production which the Agricultural
College is introducing.
3. An advance has been made in raising crops in which
we have distinct soil, climatic or seasonal advantages,
which enables us to more than meet the quality or prices
of our competitors. Such are tobacco, sweet corn (for
immediate consumption or for seed), apples, peaches and
perhaps tomatoes. Thus the production of tobacco has
increased three-fold since 1880. Peach orchards have
been almost entirely developed in the last forty years. The
420 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
farm apple orchard has been slowly dying, but the busi-
ness apple orchard, with modern methods of production
and marketing, is making sound and consistent progress,
and the outlook is very promising.
4. Growing extremely perishable cash crops, in which
the marketing expense of competitors is very high, due to
distance and perishability, certain vegetables for instance,
is increasing. It may be added that the more enlightened
taste of consumers will be a help to this industry.
They are learning that slightly wilted vegetables are
better fitted for cattle than for the "home circle," and
that sweet corn, after twenty-four hours' keeping, may
serve for "roughage," but is not a delicacy.
Now, what has been the result as shown by statistics ?
Does it justify the opinion so often expressed, that Con-
necticut agriculture is ready to perish, or at least is con-
tinuing in a dead-and-alive condition ?
Prof. Davis, who has had exceptional opportunity to
study the question, makes the following statements :
"Even when all corrections have been made for the
fluctuations of the dollar for the past forty years, Con-
necticut agriculture shows a five-fold increase in the value
of its products per acre, and a three-fold increase of the
value of the products per farm, and the total value of the
products of the State has doubled. Specifically, the in-
crease in the value of the products of the farm since 1880
has been from $10 per acre to $48.60 per acre, and the
value of products per farm from $540 to $3,100." ^*
The average Connecticut farm is producing somewhat
more than the average in the United States.
Prophecy regarding business ventures is futile. Faith
in the future, based on the. record of the past, which is
** Changed by E. H. J. to prices as per commodity index, (1913-100)
CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURE 421
the sentiment of the legend on the seal of this State, is
reasonable, and necessary to success.
'There certainly has never been a time within sixty
years," says Prof. Davis, "when the opportunity for a
man with the right training and character, to farm with
the prospect of getting a good income and attaining a
high standard of life for himself and his family is as
^ood as it is today."
422 HISTORY OF CONNECTICUT
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